Letter: We're subsidizing senior citizens to smoke

Blog Post created by Thomas3.20.2010 on Aug 6, 2012

Regarding “South Jersey smoking rate a killer for region” (editorial, July 29):

As a senior citizen, I am aware of some smoking-related issues that are not being researched by the American Cancer Society, the state Health Department, etc.

As the editorial mentioned, there is a correlation with a high incidence of smoking diseases in farm workers. How do they afford cigarettes? Are they being paid with cigarettes by any of the farmers? They likely have no insurance so the taxpayers are thus paying for their medical care.

Salem is one of the poorest counties in New Jersey, so I would recommend a study be done regarding the smoking rates of low-income people — including senior citizens who are on Social Security plus Medicaid — versus those with higher incomes.

I do know that in subsidized seniors’ apartments, a married couple on Social Security alone pays more rent than a couple on additional social welfare programs.


Essentially, the state and federal governments are subsidizing the purchase of cigarettes. Then the taxpayers are subsidizing the rents and medical care related to smoking and second-hand smoke.

Even though one cannot purchase cigarettes with food stamps, the money paid out from welfare and Social Security can be used for that purpose.

Although government cannot prohibit the purchase of cigarettes by these benefit recipients, they can do a few things to make smoking more difficult — such as making “Section 8” and tax-exempt, low-income senior apartments smoke free. Or, at least prohibit all smoking except in a designated outside space.

If the County of Salem can prohibit smoking on county properties, why can’t the state and federal government follow suit with this housing?

I find the lack of emphasis on seniors who smoke to be appalling, as we have the highest rates of immune disorders, chronic lung and heart disease, diabetes, cancers, etc. The emphasis has been on preventing smoking in the young, as it should be, but please don’t forget to put an emphasis on the effects of smoking on the elderly as well.

We are the ones who require frequent medical treatment and hospitalizations, and are more likely to end up in a nursing home as a result of a smoking-related illness. These costs affect all taxpayers, hospitals and health insurance companies, so certainly someone should be studying this issue.