Aims and background: To update estimates of smoking prevalence in Italy to the year 2002.
Methods: Population-based, face-to-face survey conducted by the DOXA (the Italian Branch of the Gallup International Association) in March-April 2002 on 3,238 individuals aged 15 or over, representative of the whole Italian population.
Results: Overall, 26.6% of Italian adults were current cigarette smokers (31.1% of men, 22.3% of women); 19.9% of men and 10.4% of women smoked 15 or more cigarettes per day. Ex-smokers were 15.2% (21.9% of men, 9.0% of women). There was no appreciable difference with reference to geographic area or education in men, but more educated women were more frequently smokers (28%). Compared to 2001, reported smoking prevalence declined by 3.7% in men and 1.3% in women, and the fall was evident in various age groups, including the youngest one (15-24 years). However, part of the fall is likely due to increased underreporting, since these survey figures are appreciably underestimated as compared to sale data. Among ex-smokers, 84% had stopped without support. Among smokers, 37% had tried at least once to stop. Using the Fagerström questionnaire, 69.5% of smokers were classified as low or very low dependent, whereas only 20.0% of smokers were classified as high or very high dependent. Women, younger and elderly, as well as more educated smokers of both sexes tended to be less dependent.
Conclusions: Self-reported smoking prevalence tends to decline in Italy, although the overall figure (26.6% of Italian adults) remains considerably higher than the USA and several Western European countries.