Background: The role of gender and socioeconomic status in smoking has been characterized in the United States and Northern European countries. However, there is scarce information of the dynamic of the tobacco epidemic in Southern European countries. The aim of this study was to analyze smoking initiation and cessation according to level of education and gender in Catalonia, Spain.
Methods: Data from the Catalan Health Survey (1994), a cross-sectional study based in a representative sample of the noninstitutionalized population of Catalonia, was used. The relative risks and 95% confidence interval of smoking initiation were computed by means of Cox's regression. The odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals of quitting smoking were derived from logistic regression models. Direct responses from 4,370 men and 5,213 women ages 25 years or over were included for analysis.
Results: Ever smoking was inversely related to level of education in men. Males with the highest educational level tended to have a lower probability of being a smoker at a given age than those with less than primary school (relative risk = 0.6; 95% confidence interval: 0.5-0.7). This pattern appeared with small variation across age groups. In women, a reverse trend was present: the higher the level of education the higher the relative risk of starting smoking (relative risk = 4.6; 95% confidence interval: 3.1-6.7). Quitting smoking was more likely among men and women with higher education as compared to men and women with less than primary school (men: odds ratio = 1.5; 95% confidence interval 1.1-2.1; women: odds ratio = 4.6; 95% confidence interval: 2.1-10.4).
Conclusions: The differential effect of education according to gender may reflect different phases of the smoking epidemic. In Catalonia, the transition of smoking from upper and lower socioeconomic groups occurred recently among men, and women have currently begun to experience this transition.
Copyright 2001 American Health Foundation and Academic Press.