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Am J Public Health. 1996 November; 86(11): 1582–1589.
PMCID: PMC1380693

The relationship between cigarette smoking and education revisited: implications for categorizing persons' educational status.


OBJECTIVE: This study sought to reassess the relationship between cigarette smoking and education. METHODS: Data from the 1983 to 1991 National Health Interview Survey for participants aged 25 years and older were used to plot the prevalence of current smoking, ever smoking, heavy smoking, and smoking cessation, as well as the adjusted log odds ratios, by years of education. RESULTS: The "less than high school graduate" category consisted of two groups with distinct smoking patterns: persons with 0 to 8 years and persons with 9 to 11 years of education. The latter were the most likely to be current, ever, and heavy smokers and the least likely to have quit smoking, whereas the former were similar to persons having 12 years of education. After 11 years of education, the likelihood of smoking decreased and that of smoking cessation increased with each successive year of education. These results persisted after the statistical adjustment for age, sex, ethnicity, poverty status, employment status, marital status, geographic region, and year of survey. CONCLUSIONS: The relationship between smoking and education is not monotonic. Thus, when evaluating smoking in relation to education, researchers should categorize years of education as follows: 0 to 8, 9 to 11, 12, 13 to 15, and 16 or more years.

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