Cigarette consumption has increased steadily throughout this century in Italy. There were marked increases in three periods: in the 1920s, in the 1950s possibly due to the spread of smoking among young men, and in the 1970s in part due to smoking among women. The average number of cigarettes per adult per day sold legally in 1980 was 6.9 but, taking smuggling into account, the actual average number of cigarettes smoked per day is likely to range between eight and nine. Data from a national sample-based survey conducted in 1980 showed that smoking prevalence in men was broadly similar within age groups, geographical area, education, and socioeconomic groups. Smoking in women, on the other hand, was concentrated in younger and more educated women living in larger towns and in richer areas of the country. This pattern is typical of a recent rapid spread of smoking among women. The average tar yield of Italian cigarettes in 1983-4 was about 17 mg. Tar yield was strongly and negatively correlated with price (r = -0.55). This abnormality should be urgently reversed by government intervention. No material increase in lung cancer mortality in young women was evident up to the lat 1970s. Lung cancer death rates in men correlated closely with the observed changes in cigarette consumption. The highest mortality rates (about 7, 20, and 50/100 000 respectively in the age groups 35-39, 40-44, and 45-49) were reached by the generation born around 1927-30, and the rates have remained fairly constant around these maximum levels for those born up to 1940. As a consequence, Italian lung cancer death rates in middle-aged men (45 to 54) are currently the highest registered in developed countries, and large upward trends are currently detectable in older men.
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