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Soc Sci Med. 1997 Jul;45(1):159-69.

Dietary and lifestyle correlates of passive smoking in Hong Kong, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S.A.

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  • 1Department of Community Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.


From epidemiologic studies in several countries, passive smoking has been associated with increased risk for lung cancer, respiratory diseases, and coronary heart disease. Since the relative risks derived from those studies are weak, i.e. relative risk less than two, we investigated whether poorer diets and less healthy lifestyles might act as confounders and be correlated with having a smoking husband on a cross-cultural basis. Characteristics of never-smoked wives with or without smoking husbands were compared between 530 women from Hong Kong, 13,047 from Japan, 87 from Sweden, and 144 from the U.S. In all four sites, wives with smoking husbands generally ate less healthy diets. They had a tendency to eat more fried food but less fruit than wives with nonsmoking husbands. Other healthy traits, e.g. avoiding obesity, dietary cholesterol and alcohol, or taking vitamins and participating in preventive screening were also less prevalent among wives with smoking husbands. These patterns suggest that never-smoked wives with smoking husbands tend to share the same less healthy dietary traits characteristic of smokers, and to have dietary habits associated with increased risk for lung cancer and heart disease in their societies. These results emphasize the need to take into account the potential confounding effects of diet and lifestyle in studies evaluating the health effects of passive smoking, especially since it is known that the current prevalence rates of smoking among men is indirectly associated with social class and education in affluent urban societies.

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