Objectives: To review statistics on smoking prevalence and to analyze whether the implementation of national tobacco control legislation had an association with the prevalence of smoking, and thereby, with the occurrence of smoking-related lung diseases.
Design: Smoking prevalence rates (from 1960 to 2000), lung cancer incidence rates (from 1980 to 2000), and respiratory disease mortality rates (from 1980 to 1998) were obtained from Finnish national surveys and registers. Regression models with 20-year lag times for disease occurrence were applied in the statistical analysis.
Results: Daily smoking prevalence among men decreased continuously from 58 to 28% in the period from 1960 to 2000. Between 1965 and 1971, male lung cancer incidence was still on the increase, but from 1971 it decreased from 80 to 32 per 100,000 men. The male respiratory disease mortality rate declined steeply during the study period. From 1960 to 1973, women's smoking prevalence increased from 12 to 20%. At the introduction of the tobacco control bill in 1975, the increase leveled off and female smoking prevalence slightly decreased, but then rose again after 1985 to remain at 20%. Lung cancer incidence among women increased throughout the study period, but the gradient of the curve lowered in the 1980s.
Conclusions: National legislative actions were found to be associated with a change in smoking prevalence among women from a linear rise to a plateau. The results of the present study showed a very strong association between reduced smoking prevalence and the occurrence of lung cancer.