Similarities and Differences Between Sexes and Countries in the Mortality Imprint of the Smoking Epidemic in 34 Low-Mortality Countries, 1950–2014

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The smoking epidemic greatly affected mortality levels and trends, especially among men in low-mortality countries. The objective of this article was to examine similarities and differences between sexes and low-mortality countries in the mortality imprint of the smoking epidemic. This will provide important additions to the smoking epidemic model, but also improve our understanding of the differential impact of the smoking epidemic, and provide insights into its future impact.
Using lung-cancer mortality data for 30 European and four North American or Australasian countries, smoking-attributable mortality fractions (SAMF) by sex, age (35–99), and year (1950–2014) were indirectly estimated. The timing and level of the peak in SAMF35-99, estimated using weighting and smoothing, were compared.
Among men in all countries except Bulgaria, a clear wave pattern was observed, with SAMF35-99 peaking, on average, at 33.4% in 1986. Eastern European men experienced the highest (40%) and Swedish men the lowest (16%) peak. Among women, SAMF35-99 peaked, on average, at 18.1% in 2007 in the North American/Australasian countries and five Northwestern European countries, and increased, on average, to 7.5% in 2014 in the remaining countries (4% in Southern and Eastern Europe). The average sex difference in the peak is at least 25.6 years in its timing and at most 22.9 percentage points in its level.
Although the progression of smoking-attributable mortality in low-mortality countries was similar, there are important unexpected sex and country differences in the maximum mortality impact of the smoking epidemic driven by cross-country differences in economic, political, and emancipatory progress.
The formal, systematic, and comprehensive analysis of similarities and differences between sexes and 34 low-mortality countries in long-term time trends (1950–2014) in smoking-attributable mortality provided important additions to the Global Burden of Disease study and the descriptive smoking epidemic model (Lopez et al.). Despite a general increase followed by a decline, the timing of the maximum mortality impact differs more between sexes than previously anticipated, but less between regions. The maximum mortality impact among men differs considerably between countries. The observed substantial diversity warrants country-specific tobacco control interventions and increased attention to the current or expected higher smoking-attributable mortality shares among women compared to men.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1210–1220
JournalNicotine & Tobacco Research
Issue number7
Early online date23 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • smoking
  • mortality
  • epidemics


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