Aims and background: Patterns and trends in smoking habits are a major determinant of subsequent incidence and mortality for lung cancer, and other tobacco related neoplasms on a population level.
Methods and study design: Smoking prevalence in Italy was analyzed using data from the 1995 National Multipurpose Survey, conducted by the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) and based on a sample of 50,585 subjects (24,497 men and 26,088 women), aged 15 years or over, identified in strata of geographic area and size of the municipality in order to be representative of the general italian population. Data on smoking were obtained through a self-administered questionnaire.
Results: Overall, 25.3% of Italians aged 15 years or over (34.1% of males, 17.1% of females) described themselves as current smokers, 20.5% (28.0% of males, 13.5% of females) as ex-smokers, and 54.2% (37.9% of males, 69.4% of females) as never smokers. Heavy current smokers (> or = 15 cigarettes per day) were 15.6% of males and 3.9% of females. Compared to previous surveys, reported smoking prevalence increased, mostly in the youngest age groups (15 to 24 years) in both sexes. However, the increase could be partly or largely attributable to the different modality of data collection (interview in previous surveys, self-administered questionnaire in the present survey), which may have reduced underreporting.
Conclusions: The data of the 1995 National Household Survey confirmed previous patterns of smoking in Italy, i.e., a higher smoking prevalence in less educated, southern Italian males, and in more educated, northern Italian females. These figures reflect therefore the importance of the social and cultural correlates of smoking. Moreover, the stability in smoking prevalence over the last few years reflects the absence of any organized and structured intervention on a legislation and public health level on the smoking issue in Italy.