Smoking and prevalence of disease in the 1983 Italian National Health Survey

C. La Vecchia, R. Pagano, E. Negri, A. Decarli

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The relation between smoking habits and selected chronic diseases was evaluated from the data of the 1983 Italian National Health Survey, based on 72,284 people aged 15 or over randomly selected within strata of geographical area, size of place of residence and of the household in order to be representative of the whole Italian population. The prevalence of all the 19 diseases or groups of diseases considered was elevated among ex-smokers, thus suggesting that the presence of any chronic condition stimulates cessation of smoking. The excess prevalence among ex-smokers was particularly larger for myocardial infarction and other heart diseases. Four groups of diseases were positively related with current as well as with past cigarette smoking. These were chronic bronchitis, emphysema of the lung or respiratory insufficiency, gastroduodenal ulcer and varicose veins or haemorrhoids. For all these groups of diseases the relative risks were higher in heavy cigarette smokers. Compared with never smokers, the point estimates for subjects smoking 15 cigarettes per day or more were 2.6 for chronic bronchiitis, 1.7 for emphysema of the lung, 2.1 for gastroduodenal ulcer and 1.6 for varicose veins or haemorrhoids. For bronchitis, ulcer and varicose veins or haemorrhoids the relative risks tended to be higher in younger and middle age groups. From these data, it was estimated that in the whole of Italy a total of about 900,000 prevalent cases of chronic bronchitis, 270,000 of emphysema, 610,000 gastroduodenal ulcers and 380,000 varicose veins or haemorrhoids could be associated with cigarette smoking. The excess risk of several other severe conditions among ex-smokers indicates that the health consequences and economic implications of smoking-induced morbidity are not restricted to these four groups of diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-55
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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