Objectives: The negative health effects of cigarette smoking are nowadays well known. An important prerequisite for the implementation of rewarding health promotion campaigns aiming at reducing the tobacco dependency in the general population is the knowledge about smoking prevalences in different social population groups, and specific information about social factors and determinants influencing smoking behaviour.
Methods: In this regard, the Microcensus is a very valuable data source for Germany. Included in the present analysis are persons aged 18 years and older, which are present in the "Microcensus Public Use File 1995" and had answered the questions about their smoking behaviour (N = 186,424). The dependent study variable is current cigarette smoking. Independent study variables are sociodemographic factors (age, sex, family status), occupational status, unemployment, socio-economic situation and regional-specific variables (size of community, East vs West Germany).
Results: All together, 30.5% of the males and 18.0% of the females were current smokers. Significantly higher smoking rates were observed for persons living in metropolitan areas, persons with low educational achievement and low occupational status, for people being divorced, unemployed, and living on social welfare. In a second step, we analysed the cumulative effect of these social factors for current smoking status. In summary, it was found that the cumulation of social determinants explained a great part of the variance in smoking prevalence. Current smoking was four to six times more prevalent in population groups characterised by several unfavourable social conditions compared to more privilege population groups.
Conclusions: Thus, smoking related prevention activities should be evaluated, among others, regarding their potential to reduce the social polarisation of the smoking epidemic.