French men are giving up smoking, but not French women

December 8, 2010, European Society of Cardiology

The prevalence of smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke among men in France has fallen by more than 15 per cent since the mid 1980s, but over the same 20-year period has increased among women. As a result, investigators from the World Health Organization French MONICA (MONItoring trends and determinants in CArdiovascular disease) centre say the divergent smoking trends predict changes in death rates from coronary heart disease in French men and women since 1985 - estimated as a decline in men of 10-15 per cent, but an increase among women of 0.1-3.6 per cent.

Reviewing the smoking trends in France, the investigators say: "The prevalence of smoking in men has been high for the past 60 years and is now tending to fall, whereas women only started to smoke in large numbers much more recently."

Evidence is presented in the latest report of the MONICA investigators published in the December issue of the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation. The aim of the study was to assess trends in the prevalence of adult smoking habits between 1985-1987 and 2005-2007 in three distinct areas of France and their likely contribution to death rates.

The results are based on detailed surveys of mid-life adults (aged 35-64 years) in three distinct geographical regions of France: the Lille urban community in the north; the Bas-Rhin department in the east; and the Haute-Garonne department in the south. The surveys were conducted at three time points - 1985-87, 1995-97 and 2005-07 - and involved a total of more than 10,000 subjects.

They were each asked about earlier or current , the number of cigarettes smoked per day, age at first cigarette, pipe tobacco and cigar consumption, quit attempts, age at quitting, and secondhand exposure. Answers provided not just a snapshot of smoking trends in France, but also a database by which the contribution of tobacco exposure to heart disease mortality risk could be plotted.

The study found:

  • Smoking among men (aged 35-64 years)
  • A significant decrease in current tobacco consumption between 1985-87 and 2005-07 from a prevalence rate of 40 to 24.3 per cent
  • Prevalence among former smokers remained steady at 37 per cent
  • Prevalence of never-smokers increased from 24.7 to 38.2 per cent
  • Age at first cigarette remained stable - at approximately 17.5 years
  • Smoking among women (aged 35-64 years)
  • A slight increase in tobacco consumption between 1985-87 and 2005-07 from 18.9 to 20 per cent
  • An increase of prevalence among former smokers from 24.7 to 38.2 per cent
  • A marked decrease in the prevalence of never-smokers from 72.4 to 54.6 per cent
  • Age at first cigarette decreased from 21.4 years in 1995-97 to 18.8 years in 2005-07
The investigators note that the increase in among women was mainly seen in the mid-1990s survey, especially in the 35-54 age group; this continued into the 2005-07 survey among the 45-64 age group. Among younger women the proportion of current smokers slightly decreased between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s.

When these figures were introduced to the risk prediction model, the estimated cardiovascular mortality rate was approximately 10 per cent lower in men aged 35-54 years and 15 per cent lower in men aged 55-64 years. However, in women the predicted heart disease mortality rate was higher by up to 4.9 per cent between 1995-97 and 2005-07.

Commenting on the results of the study investigator Dr Jean Dallongeville from the INSERM Institut Pasteur in Lille, France, said: "Men have reduced their exposure to tobacco from 40 to 24.3 per cent, representing a predicted fall in deaths from coronary heart disease. By contrast, women have increased their exposure resulting in a rise in the predicted heart disease death estimate.

These results, he said, may partly explain the decline in coronary heart disease mortality in men over the study period, but not seen in women, but he acknowledged the effect of other factors on trends in .

The latest survey results showed that in 2005-07 one third of men aged 35-44 and one quarter of women described themselves as current smokers, with no apparent increase in the number of attempts to give up. "To continue the reduction in the level of risk factors for coronary heart disease, pressure must be maintained on anti-tobacco initiatives,' said Dr Dallongeville.

More information: Tilloy E, Cottel D, Ruidavets JB, et al. Characteristics of current smokers, former smokers, and secondhand exposure and evolution between 1985 and 2007. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil 2010; doi: 10.1097/HJR.0b013e32833a9a0c

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Sweet, bitter, fat: New study reveals impact of genetics on how kids snack

February 22, 2018
Whether your child asks for crackers, cookies or veggies to snack on could be linked to genetics, according to new findings from the Guelph Family Health Study at the University of Guelph.

The good and bad health news about your exercise posts on social media

February 22, 2018
We all have that Facebook friend—or 10—who regularly posts photos of his or her fitness pursuits: on the elliptical at the gym, hiking through the wilderness, crossing a 10K finish line.

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Lead and other toxic metals found in e-cigarette 'vapors': study

February 21, 2018
Significant amounts of toxic metals, including lead, leak from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users, according to a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public ...

Tackling health problems in the young is crucial for their children's future

February 21, 2018
A child's growth and development is affected by the health and lifestyles of their parents before pregnancy - even going back to adolescence - according to a new study by researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, ...

Why teens need up to 10 hours' sleep

February 21, 2018
Technology, other distractions and staying up late make is difficult, but researchers say teenagers need to make time for 8-10 hours of sleep a night to optimise their performance and maintain good health and wellbeing.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.