Objectives: The study investigates the life cycle patterns of educational inequalities in smoking according to gender over three successive generations.
Methods: Based on retrospective smoking histories collected by the nationwide French Health Barometer survey 2010, we explored educational inequalities in smoking at each age, using the relative index of inequality.
Results: Educational inequalities in smoking increase across cohorts for men and women, corresponding to a decline in smoking among the highly educated alongside progression among the lower educated. The analysis also shows a life cycle evolution: for all cohorts and for men and women, inequalities are considerable during adolescence, then start declining from 18 years until the age of peak prevalence (around 25), after which they remain stable throughout the life cycle, even tending to rise for the most recent cohort.
Conclusions: This analysis contributes to the description of the "smoking epidemic" and highlights adolescence and late adulthood as life cycle stages with greater inequalities.
Keywords: Cohort; France; Inequalities; Life cycle; Smoking.