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Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

December 31, 2012 at 6:05 AM

Cigarette city: What are Seattle’s smokiest neighborhoods?

Georgetown is No. 1 (Photo: Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons)

Where there’s smoke, there’s … hipsters?

In Seattle, it seems so.  Analysis of consumer spending data reveals that some of the city’s funkiest neighborhoods are also the ones whose residents smoke the most cigarettes. And Georgetown — that crumbling enclave of artists and bohemians just north of Boeing Field — is the smokiest neighborhood of all.  Even though incomes in Georgetown are well below the city average, that doesn’t stop folks there from puffing away more of their paychecks than anybody else in town.  The per capita spending on cigarettes and other tobacco products in Georgetown is the highest in the city — 17 percent above the Seattle average. When Georgetowners run low on cash, the art supplies can wait, but not that pack of American Spirits.

Smoking outside Bauhaus, Capitol Hill (Photo: Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons)

If anyone can sympathize with that, it would have to be the denizens of hip Capitol Hill, Seattle’s second most tobacco-stained neighborhood.  From band practice to bike polo, there’s nothing they can’t do without a Camel Turkish Gold dangling from their lips. And you know how people who live on Capitol Hill have a reputation for never leaving their neighborhood? It’s not snobbishness.  They’re just worried that if they walk down from the Hill, they won’t have the lung capacity to make it back up.

Rounding out Seattle’s top-3 best neighborhoods for bumming a cigarette is Pioneer Square, the half-squalid, half-chic epicenter of the city’s gallery and arts scene. What is it about artists and smoking?  Cigarettes are expensive, especially here in Washington.  Aren’t most artists struggling just to make ends meet? Of course, many of the painters and sculptors you see flicking ashes outside the Tashiro Kaplan Lofts do save some money by rolling their own, but they still manage to outspend just about everybody else in Seattle when it comes to cigarettes and tobacco.

Before anyone accuses me of glamorizing smoking, let me point out that not all of Seattle’s most nicotined neighborhoods are quite so cool.   Check out the list of the Top 10 below.  You’ll find some decidedly less fashionable parts of town on there, too (apologies, South Delridge).

Rank Neighborhood Annual Per Capita Tobacco/Cigarette Spending
1 Georgetown $321.00
2 South Capitol Hill/Pike-Pine Corridor $314.25
3 Pioneer Square $312.00
4 East Ballard (East of 15th) $307.67
5 North U District (University Heights/University Park) $306.33
6 South Delridge (West Seattle) $304.51
7 Fremont $304.37
8 Lower Queen Anne $303.82
9 Loyal Heights (Ballard) $303.64
10 Cascade (East of Fairview) $301.39

Source: Experian

Occidental Place in Pioneer Square (Photo: Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons)

The dollar figures in the chart are averaged out across each neighborhood’s entire adult population, smokers and non-smokers alike. That’s why they might seem low.  Smokers, of course, spend much more on their habit each year than these averages; in Seattle, a pack-a-day smoker can easily spend $2,700 or more in a year (here’s a handy smoking costs calculator).

With that in mind, remember — now is the time to decide on your New Year’s resolutions. If kicking the habit is your goal for 2013, best of luck with it.  And if seeing other people smoke triggers your own urge to light up, maybe avoid Georgetown for a while.

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Follow me on twitter @genebalk

0 Comments | More in Market Research | Topics: health, Seattle, smoking

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