Smoking kills -- irrespective of social class and gender

Feb 17, 2009

A well-off professional who smokes has a much lower survival rate than a non-smoking low-paid worker of the same sex concludes new research published today on bmj.com.

The study, one of the first to examine the long-term impact of smoking on older men and women, shows that smoking itself is a greater source of health inequalities than social position. Among both men and women, smokers of all social classes had a much higher risk of premature death than non-smokers from even the lowest social classes. Surprisingly, non-smoking women in the lowest social classes had one of the lowest death rates.

The research also found that the survival advantage that women normally have over men is cancelled out by smoking. As the authors say "in essence, neither affluence nor being female offers a defence against the toxicity of tobacco."

Dr Laurence Gruer and Dr David Gordon from NHS Health Scotland and Professor Graham Watt and Dr Carole Hart from the University of Glasgow studied the impact of smoking on the survival rates of 15,000 men and women recruited in 1972-76 from Renfrew and Paisley in the West of Scotland. The participants were grouped by gender and social class and further divided into smokers, never-smokers and ex-smokers. The social class category was sub-divided as I and II (highest); III non manual; III manual; and IV and V (lowest).

Death rates for the participants were assessed after 14 years and 28 years. The results show that, during both follow-up periods, smokers had much higher death rates than never-smokers among both women and men and in every social class. After 28 years of follow-up, 56% of female never-smokers and 36% of male never-smokers in the lowest social classes (IV and V) were still alive compared with only 41% of female smokers and 24% of male smokers in the top two social class groups (I and II). Smokers in the lowest social classes fared even worse.

On a positive note, the study found that the death rates of ex-smokers were much closer to those of never-smokers than smokers, showing that quitting does make a difference regardless of social position.

Dr Gruer, Director of Public Health Science at NHS Health Scotland, said: "This study reinforces current policies in the United Kingdom and other countries aimed at helping smokers stop smoking. Accessible and effective smoking cessation advice and services, as well as strong action to discourage young people from starting to smoke, are key to reducing health inequalities. With over 23% of adults in the UK still smoking, rising to well over 40% in some places and groups, it's crucial we continue to make smoking cessation a top priority."

Source: British Medical Journal

Explore further: Parental smoking puts nearly half a million UK children into poverty

Related Stories

First smartphone app that predicts GPA created

May 26, 2015

If you're a college student wondering how your study and party habits will affect your GPA, wonder no longer. Dartmouth researchers and their colleagues have built the first app that automatically predicts ...

Yik Yak's frat-bro founders shrug off growing pains

May 25, 2015

The most popular post of all time on Yik Yak is a dirty joke. Less than 2 years old, the Atlanta-based social network is geared mostly toward college students who access and post unsigned announcements through an app on their ...

Footage from drone perspective with CyPhy Works

May 05, 2015

Sometimes you hear enthusiasts talking about high-quality footage. Now the chatter can shift over to discussions about quality drone footage. The good news is that a talented team has come up with a conc ...

Dipping into the cultural barriers to 'social' media

Apr 30, 2015

For the past two years, and with support from the UPLOAD project, Dr Koen Leurs has been interviewing young Londoners to generate data about how the social media generation deals with cultural differences.

Power to the batteries

May 22, 2015

Better solar panels and wind turbines are important to helping ensure a low-carbon future. But they are not enough. The energy from these intermittent sources must be stored, managed, converted and accessed ...

Recommended for you

House call primary care practices vary substantially

7 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Home-based primary care practices vary in terms of size and approaches to quality of care assessment, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics So ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.