Objective: To provide updated information on smoking prevalence in Italy, with a focus on demographic and socio-economic characteristics.
Method: The survey was conducted during March-April 2008 on a sample of 3035 individuals (1459 men and 1576 women) aged 15 years or over representative of the Italian population in terms of age, sex, geographic area, and socio-economic characteristics.
Results: In 2008, 22.0% (95% confidence interval, CI: 20.5-23.5) of Italians described themselves as current cigarette smokers (26.4% of men, 17.9% of women); ex-smokers were 18.4% (95% CI: 17.0-19.8; 24.1% of men, 13.2% of women). By the year 2012 the number of former could exceed that of current smokers. Smoking prevalence in the young (15-24 years) was around 30% in males, and almost 20% in females. For both sexes, current smoking was less prevalent in higher (22.9% of men, 20.1% of women) than in lower educated participants (34.8% of men, 22.1% of women), and in northern (22.5% of men, 16.1% of women) than southern Italy (31.8% of men, 18.4% of women).
Conclusion: In 2008, smoking prevalence was the lowest observed over the last 50 years, in Italy. However, part of the fall is likely due to increased under-reporting, since these survey figures are appreciably under-estimated as compared to sale data. Subjects with less privileged socio-economic characteristics should be considered target populations for tobacco control.