In 1990, 38 per cent of women in unskilled manual households smoked, compared with 16 per cent in professional classes.
But Hilary Graham, Professor of Applied Social Studies at the University of Warwick, said that when there were multiple disadvantages, such as low income, divorce, and being a single parent, the proportion of women who smoked more than doubled.
'What we are seeing is the intimate way in which smoking is linked to social disadvantage. Low income appears to be the common thread. It seems that living in poverty keeps women smoking,' she said yesterday.
The report, Her Share of Misfortune: Women, Smoking and Low Income, was launched yesterday by the Cancer Research Campaign, Ash, the anti-smoking pressure group, and the Health Education Authority.
They called on the Government to ban cigarette advertising and warned that the issues of poverty had to be addressed in the campaign to stop smoking. They said new strategies were needed to tackle this group of smokers.
Professor Graham said women on low incomes would place cigarettes along side food and heating, and before any other 'luxury', such as clothes or holidays.
'In those struggling on the lowest incomes smoking was given the same spending profile as fuel or food. It becomes a necessity. Smoking is part of the way they survive . . ,' she said.