As a latest study by the University of Colorado Cancer Center showed people who smoke are less likely to vote than their non-smoking peers, while many studies earlier attributed it to political mistrust in institutions.
“We know from previous research that smokers are an increasingly marginalized population, involved in fewer organizations and activities and with less interpersonal trust than nonsmokers. But what our research suggests is that this marginalization may also extend beyond the interpersonal level to attitudes toward political systems and institutions,” says Karen Albright of the Colorado School of Public Health.
Their study, based on data from the Colorado Tobacco Attitudes and Behaviors Study (C-TABS), conducted by Arnold Levinson via random digital dialing on 11,626 people, concluded that 17% of respondents were smokers and 60% of them are less likely to vote.
Albright was quick to point out that smokers may view political institutions as oppressors, given widespread enactment of tobacco taxes and clean indoor air laws. Or, the stigma associated with smoking may create social withdrawal making them feel marginalised in society.
Albright, Levinson, and colleagues are in the process of analyzing more to understand the smokers’ feelings toward the political system.
“We’re getting a clearer picture of the ‘what’ and soon I hope it will be time to talk to individual smokers in these populations to start exploring the ‘why’,” said Albright.
The task ahead is whether to work on special incentives to bring back smokers into the mainstream or let them feel marginalised in a political system, which will have far-reaching implications in any nation in the long run.