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J Epidemiol Community Health. Oct 2003; 57(10): 802–808.
PMCID: PMC1732304

Socioeconomic status over the life course and stages of cigarette use: initiation, regular use, and cessation


Study objective: To investigate the association between multiple indicators of socioeconomic status (SES) over the life course and three stages of cigarette use: initiation, regular use, and cessation.

Design: Prospective birth cohort study.

Setting: Providence, Rhode Island.

Participants: Subjects (n=657) aged 30 to 39 were offspring of participants in the Brown University cohort of the United States National Collaborative Perinatal Project started in 1959.

Main results: A significantly increased risk of smoking initiation was observed among people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Low SES in childhood also increased the risk for progression to regular smoking, and was associated with a reduced likelihood of smoking cessation. Progression to regular smoking and smoking persistence were also associated with lower adult SES.

Conclusions: Socioeconomic conditions over the life course accumulate to produce increased rates of smoking uptake and reduced rates of cessation among lower SES people. Addressing SES gradients in smoking will require persistent and extended intervention over multiple life stages.

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