This confidential Philip Morris internal report on "smoker psychology" explores the relationship between socioeconomic status and smoking. It finds that:
"Lower class panelists smoke more and are much more likely to be smokers than upper class panelists..."
It also found that lower class people tend to smoke nonfiltered cigarettes (tend to "avoid health filters") and that they also tend to avoid 100 millimeter-length brands.
The writers also observe that lower class people have more incidence of poor mental health, hypothesizing that people use smoking as a "strategy" to combat the stress of low class status as well as poor mental health:
"...the incidence of poor mental health is greatest among the lower class...To the extent that smoking is one of the available strategies people can adopt to combat stress, we therefore would expect greater incidence of smoking among the lower social classes."
The study also finds a correlation between lower class and poor physical health, but avoids directly confronting the possibility that smoking could account for this, preferring to attribute poor physical health status to simply to BEING a member of the lower class:
"...because the incidence of smoking differs between the social classes, we would find our research literature filled with obervations suggesting that smoking is related to poor health. The literature does show this, and it may be wrong...At least part of the reported statistical relationships between health variables and incidence of smoking can probably be accounted for in this fashion.
The smoking and health relationships may be at least in part due to social class differences rather than to smoking per se."
Despite Philip Morris' internal findings of higher smoking rates among lower socioeconimic classes, as well as its findings that this group also has a higher incidence of both poor mental and physical health, it continued to promote its deadly and addictive products heavily among these groups. One must question whether this violates state charters for incorporation, which generally require that a corporation does not harm the population.
Here is what Colorado's state constitution says about revoking corporate charters:
"Section 3. Power to revoke, alter or annul charter. The general assembly shall have the power to alter, revoke or annul any charter of incorporation now existing and revocable at the adoption of this constitution, or any that may hereafter be created, whenever in their opinion it may be injurious to the citizens of the state, in such manner, however, that no injustice shall be done to the corporators."
Would it be just or unjust to Philip Morris to revoke its corporate charter if it was shown to have knowingly degraded the health of Colorado's least well-off citizens to achieve higher profits?
A survey of the socioeconomic status of...panelists reveals that
1) Lower class panelists smoke more and are much more likely to be smokers than upper class panelists...
...Social class influences cigarette type very little except for lower class tendencies to smoke nonfilters and avoid health filters and 100 mm brands.
...Social class of respondents cannot be ignored in studying smoking behavior.
...Kinsey reports have shown that the sexual standards and behaviors of the classes differ; even casual observation shows that the classes have different likelihood of attending specific protestant churches (the funamentalist churches appeal of the lower classes, and the Methodist and Episcopal to the upper classes); many consumer studies reveal differences among classes in preference for private brands vs. tradenames, for type of retail stores frequented, and for concern with the appearance of their homes...
...A few recent studies have suggested that (as a consequence?) there are personality test score difference between the social classes, so that lower classes appear more anxious than upper classes. As a corollary to this observation, we note that still other investigatons report that the incidence of poor mental health is greatest among the lower class...To the extent that smoking is one of the available strategies people can adopt to combat stress, we therefore would expect greater incidence of smoking among the lower social classes.
...The naive experimenter who ignores social class and measures only intelligence test scores of...[smokers and nonsmokers] will therefore conclude "that smokers have lower intelligence test scores than nonsmokers." This is true, but it is a nonsense statement. It implies that smoking is somehow related to intelligence test score. Within each social class however each smoker has exactly the same score as each nonsmoker. What the naive researcher is seeing is the confounding effects of different social class intelligence socres and different proportions of smokers...
As a second hypothetical example, suppose that some index of poor health is related to social class in such a way that the well-paid, well-educated white collar workers enjoy better health than poorly paid, poorly educated laborers. Then, because the incidence of smoking differs between the social classes, we would find our research literature filled with obervations suggesting that smoking is related to poor health. The literature does show this, and it may be wrong.
At least part of the reported statistical relationships between health variables and incidence of smoking can probably be accounted for in this fashion.
The smoking and health relationships may be at least in part due to social class differences rather than to smoking per se.
It must be cautioned that this observation does not mean smoking is independent of health problems...
- Philip Morris Cos., Inc.
- Johnson, M.E. (Philip Morris)
- Ryan, F.J. (Philip Morris)
- Fagan. R
- Fountaine, S
- Graham, R
- Osdene, T
- Resnick, F
- Seligman, R
- Thomson, R
- Udow, A
- Wakeham, H
- United States
- Report- Scientific
- Health effects
- Mental health
- Smoker psychology
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Accession No. 73-080
Issued To a
PHILI. P MORRIS U,S,A,
R E S E A R C H C E N T E R
CHARGE NO~, & TITLE: 1600 - Smoker Psychology
TYPE REPORT: OANNUAL OSEMIANNUAL © COMPLETION ®SPECIAL
7 DATE: June, 1973 PERIOD COVERED:
R. G raham
KEYWORDS: Socioeconomic Status, Smoking and Health,
POL Panels, Status Consistency
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A survey of the socioeconomic status of POL panelists
(11) Lower class panelists smoke more and are much more
likely to be smokers than upper class panelists,
(2) Status inconsistent panelists (whose income or
education are inappropriate for their occupation)
smoke more and are more likely to smoke than are
panelists with consistent incomes, education and
(3) Social class influences cigarette type smoked very
little, except for lower class tendencies to smoke
nonfilters and avoid health filters and 100 mm
The disproportionate distributfon of smokers among the
social classes may well account for some of the reported,
differences in psychological characteristics between smokers
and nonsmokers (e.g. lower acadlemi'c achievement and intelligence
test scores of smokers). Further, the distributiomcan even
mask situations in which smokers do better than nonsmokers so
that smokers will appear worse than nonsmokers.
Social class of respondents cannot be ignored in studying
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Social status* is a recognized determinant of behavior
among societies which are obviously divided into sociali classes.
That such status differences exist in the USA is well known,
but is usually ignored by psychologists. There ap~pears to: be
some egalitarian wishful thinking among social scientists
regarding the effects of social' cl'ass on behavior. They would
like all people to be equali, so they treat their behavior as if
it were unrelated to demographic characteristics, while knowing
that it is not. For example, gender is the only demographic
variable taken into account by most psychologists. As a conse-
quence there has been a taboo built up among psychological
researchers, so that they tend to ignore the potential effects
of social status on their research. Yet many of these same
researchers will, in explai'ning behavior, suggest that environ-
mental conditions, social reinforcers, and a general history
of conditioning to make specific responses in the presence of
specifi'.c cues are the contributary factors in producing many
of the differences between people which we see every day.
"Each man is different," they glibly assert to colIege classes,
"because each has a different reinforcement history."
Bu~t rei'nforcement histories are not necessarily unique
for each individual. There are many stmilarities as well as
differences, and the similarities are often common within a
given social class yet different from class to class.
*"Social Status" is a measure of prestige. When we block people
of high prestige in the community into a class or group, the ~
group is described as a high social' class, and a group: of low 0
prestige people is described as a low social class. The terms ~
"'social status" and "prestige" can be used interchangeably. p
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For example,-amomg these similarities and differences are
such conditionis as: (1) Each social class has a d1lfferent
probability of consistently rewarding, punishing, or ignori'ing
the behaviors of its children and adult members, and (2) Each
social class has a different set of mores to be punished or
rewarded, a set which differs in part from the mores olf the
To be more specific, the Kinsey reports have shown that the
sexual standards and behaviors of the classes d1i'ffer; even
casual observation shows that the classes have different like-
lihood of attending specific protestant churches (the funda-
mental.ist churches appeal to the lower classes, and the
Methodist and Episcopal to the upper classes); many consumer
studies reveal differences among classes in preference for
private brands vs. tradenames, for types of retail stores
frequented, and for concern with the appearance of their homes;
child development studies show the lower class is more apt to
spank its children, the middle class more apt to fol!low currently
popular child training techniques; etc.
A few recent studies have suggested that (as a consequence?)
there are personality test score differences between t;he social
classes, so that lower classes appear more anxious thaniupper
classes. As a corollary to this obs-ervation, we note that still
other investigations report that the incidence of poor mental
health is greatest.among the lower class. Both observations
suggest that members of th,e lower classes are ulnder greater
personal stress than are people in other classes. To the extent
that smoking is one of the avail!able strateqies people can adopt $-
to combat stress, we therefore would expect greater incidence of ~
smoking among the lower social classes. O
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Thi's is not a particul'arly daring hypothesis, for others
have already reported the greater inci'dence of smoking among
the British lower economic classes, and we have noted it before
in our study of Greenfield, Iowa. To a considerable degree it
is therefore ex post facto theorizing.
In addition to expecting general effects of social class
on smoking, we also expect that we can classify some life
situations, as described by measures of social class, as more
stressful than others. Thus, for example, we feel', that a sales
engineer with a college degree and a 1968 income of over $15,000
lives a different life than does a man in the same occupationn
who lacks either this educational background or this income
level. The fi'rst man has income, occupation, and education
consistent with high prestige in the community. We call him
status consistent. By contrast, the second man is status
inconsistent, for either his income or education or both are
inappropriate to his job. We suggest that status inconsistency
places a man under extra life stresses, and that therefore
there should be a higher proportion of smokers among the status
inconsistent than among the status consistent.
Ratings of Social Class
In Warner's study of social relationships in a Connecticut
community, "Yankee City," interviewers found most adults able
to rate their fellow townsmen on social status with great inter-
judge reliabi.lity, using criteria of: occupation, kind and
amount of income, moral standing, geneology, social relationships
and' organizations and kind of residential area in which the
person lived. Given information of this kind,
peoplie to classes and examine the incidence of
in the classes.
we can assign
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The Present Study
We lacked some of the social information, but did know
the occupations, approximate income, and educational back-
ground of most of the panelists on the 1968 and 1972 POL
National Roster (see Table 1) so we examined these files for
possible social class effects on smoking, using the Census
Bureau procedures to guide us in defining socioeconomic status
and status consistency. The Bureau assigns a number to each
education and income level in the population based on the
cumulative percentage of the population which had attained that
income and education level. It then averages these numbers for
each occupation on its list and raniks the occupations according,
to this average. Using the number of people in each occupation,
it then assigns a number corresponding to the cumulative
percentage of people inithe rank ordered occupations to the
occupations themselves. Therefore, for any individual of known
education, occupation, and income, three numbers can be assigned.
With numbers assigned to each measure, the Census Bureau defines
status inconsistency in terms of differences between these
numbers whi,ch exceed a certain size. There are twelve types of
inconststency possible, six in which two components are con-
sistent and' one is high or low, and six in whi'ch,all three
components are inconsistent, with one being high, one inter-
mediate and one low. Our procedure was somewhat simi'lar. We
assigned the Census Bureau's occupation score to each panelist
of known occupati'on, and assigned an education and income number
to each panelist according to the information on his panel
appl i'cati'on form.
Then we made separate subtables for each educationiclass
showing the number of people with each occupation score for
each of seven income classes.
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(Information available on the
POL Panel for three measures)
Occupation Education Income
Professional, Technical College Graduate
Manager, Official, Prop. Attended College
Clerical and Sales High School Graduate
Foreman, Craftsman Some High School
Operative, Unskilled, Laborer Grade School or Less
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An economist then examined the education, income, and
occupation listings and then assigned each set of scores to
a status consistent or status inconsistent group according
to his knowledge of demograpihiilcs. Although assignment to
groups was somewhat arbitrary, the decilsions were made on
logical grounds. To illustrate, among the college trained,
all who were unskillled laborers with low incomes were clas-
sified as status inconsistent with education too high for
their occupation and income. Some of the college trained
reported blue collar occupations but high incomes, these were
classified as status inconsistent with occupation being low.
Similar, equally defensible cliassilfications were made for all
panelists without knowledige of their smoking habits. Classi-
fication of smokers and nonsmokers had' been made by panelists
themselves on the original questionnaires.
Although this procedure for determining status consistency
is less precise than that of the Census Bureau, it is unprej-
udiced and unbiasediwith respect to smoking behavior.
Among the 8,605 men aged 25-59 on our 1968 panel we
identified'5,2'69 as status consistent (61.3q) and 3,336 as
status inconsistent (38.7%). Among the status consistent
men there were 2,860 smokers (541.3q).* This average figure ~
is somewhat mislead'ing, for there is a strong,occupational ©
class effect (see Table 2), the proportion of smokers being p
l greater among working class occupations. ` ~
57.7% of the panel were smokers. Compare 1970 WEW
of 47.8% smokers in the general population of men aged 26-64.
At the Research Center our SEF files indicate that 48.7% of our
personnel are smokers (men and women, all ages) a figure which
is probably an overestimate, nonsmokers being less likely to
return our local questionnaires.
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Percentage of Smokers and Average Number of
Cigarettes per"Da yamong'Status Consistent M'aIe
Members of the Fiye,Occupation Classes
% Panel Avg. Number
N Smokers Per Day
1 29.2 Professional,-Technical -1537 43.4 25.4
15,3 Manager, Official, Prop. 806 51.0 25.0
18.0 Clerical and Sales 949 56.9 26.2
1 21.6 Foremen, Craftsmen 1140 58.2 25.7
15.9 Operatives, Unskilled
I Laborers 837 69.1 26.2
There appear to be no systematic differences in consumption
among,the classes, suggesting that the probability of a man
becoming an active smoker depends omhis socioeconomic class,
but that once he becomes a smoker his consumption pattern is
not affected by his occupation. (This latter statement is a
tenuous one, for we have our doubts about the measure, reported
daily consumption, which is not a very accurate estimate accord-
ing to our SEX-i study.)
Among the status consiIstent smokers there were some product
use differences (Table 3). The 70 mm nom-filter brands were
smoked by 1/4 of the lower class smokers and by only 1/16 of the
upper class smokers. Almost the reverse relationship held true
for the so called "health filter," here defined as nonmenthol
filter cigarettes with delivery under 16 mg FTC tar. About 21%
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of the upper class and 8% of the lower class smoked "health
filter" cigarettes. The frequency of use of other types of
product (including 85 mm menthol) was not markedly different
from class to class, with the possible exception of lower
class low usage of regular 100 mm brands.
Percentage of Status Consistent Smokers
wi thii n the- Ffive"CTasses'Cdho Smoke Di fferent
85 5 mm
70 mm 85 mm 100 mm 85 mm "Health
Nonfilter -Reg.. Filter Reg. Filter Menthol Filter"
Professional, Technical 6.7 31.0 7.9 16.3 21.1
~ nager, Official, Prop. 11.4 32..4 10.9 13.6 16.5
~ Clerical & Sales 11.1 30.7 8.5 17.2 16.3
Foremen, Craftsmen 12.7 32.2 7.1 17.3 11.3
~ Operatives, Unsi'lled 25.4 29.6 4.7 15.6 7.6
All 13.4 31.2 7.6 16.2 14.5
Among the 3,336 status inconsistent panelists there were
2,106 smokers (63.1%), a higher percentage thanithe 54.3% among,
the 2,409 status consistent smokers. Among the 12 status incon-
sistent groups there were some subgroups with so few members
that it made sense to combine the subgroups to get more meaningful
data. Accordingly we have combined and recombined groups as shown
in Table 4. It should be noted that some smokers appear twice in
this table. For example, there were 11 smokers who had Hiigh
Education, Moderate Occupations, and Low Income - they appear
twice in the table, once as members of the High Education group,
once as members of the Low Income group.