February 18, 2009

Smoking kills — irrespective of class

Smokers of all social classes, regardless of gender, have a much higher risk of premature death than non-smokers, British researchers found.

Dr. Laurence Gruer and Dr. David Gordon, both of the National Health Service Health Scotland, and Graham Watt and Dr. Carole Hart, both of the University of Glasgow, studied the impact of smoking on the survival rates of 15,000 men and women recruited in 1972-76 from Renfrew and Paisley in Scotland.

The participants were grouped by gender and social class and further divided into smokers, never-smokers and ex-smokers. The social class category was sub-divided as I and II (highest); III non-manual; III manual; and IV and V (lowest).

After 28 years of follow-up, 56 percent of female never-smokers and 36 percent of male never-smokers in the lowest social classes were still alive compared with 41 percent of female smokers and 24 percent of male smokers in the top two social class groups. Smokers in the lowest social classes fared even worse.

Surprisingly, non-smoking women in the lowest social classes had one of the lowest death rates, the study said.

The findings are published in the British Medical Journal.