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Smoking Responsible for Social Inequality in Male Mortality

Smoking blamed for more than half of the difference in mortality across social strata

FRIDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking accounts for more than half of the difference in adult male mortality across socioeconomic classes, according to the results of a new study published online July 14 in The Lancet.

Prabhat Jha, M.D., of the University of Toronto in Canada, and colleagues examined smoking's contribution to adult male mortality among men aged 35 to 69 from three different social strata in four countries (England/Wales, Canada, United States and Poland). The researchers used the 1996 absolute lung cancer rates to estimate the proportions of deaths due to smoking. There were a total of 564,626 deaths during the study period.

Men in the lowest strata were twice as likely to die during the study period as those in the highest social strata and more than half of this difference was attributed to smoking, the investigators found. For example, in England and Wales, 4 percent of deaths were attributed to smoking among men in the highest social strata, compared with 19 percent among men in the lowest strata. In the United States, these percentages were 4 percent and 15 percent, respectively, the report indicates.

"Widespread cessation of smoking could eventually halve the absolute differences between these social strata in the risk of premature death," the study authors conclude.

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