Setting: Although smoking is considered a major public health problem, it remains an important component of social behaviour and economic activity.
Objective: To provide an initial evaluation, from available data, of the main characteristics of smoking in the Mediterranean region.
Design: A questionnaire was sent to a group of correspondents-clinicians or epidemiologists involved in tobacco prevention-in the different countries.
Results: The proportion of smokers was quite different in men and women. In the majority of the countries over 45% of men and under 15% of women were smokers. The mean age of initiation of smoking was about 15. In every country mainly manufactured cigarettes were smoked, and the younger population preferred American cigarettes. Doctors and medical students had smoking habits similar to those of the general population. All of the countries included in the study had antismoking legislation, but only some put restrictions on advertising or sponsoring from the tobacco industry.
Conclusion: To deal with the situation, recommendations have been proposed by a group of IUATLD experts in the different regions. The first of these is the implementation of a co-operative study in order to collect reliable data on smoking. Other recommendations are to set up educational programmes for health professionals to aid them in their smoking prevention activities.