Rich/poor divide in death rates directly linked to tobacco says study

In collaboration with the Press Association

New research has for the first time drawn a direct link between different mortality rates among socioeconomic groups and rates of tobacco use.

The study, part funded by Cancer Research UK, found that half of the difference in the mortality rates between socioeconomic groups could be attributed to smoking.

The higher mortality rate among lower socioeconomic groups is well established, but an explicit link between this and a higher rate of smoking has never before been established.

The research, by the University of Toronto and University of Oxford, examined 600,000 deaths among men aged between 35 and 69 years old in the UK, US, Canada and Poland.

"Across two continents, we find that smoking-related diseases account for well over half of the big difference in death rates between rich and poor," said professor Sir Richard Peto of the University of Oxford.

The mortality rates remained consistent across the territories, with around a quarter of all male deaths during middle age due to smoking.

"All men who smoke play Russian roulette with their lives but the odds are heavily stacked against those in lower income groups as they are much more likely to smoke," said professor John Toy, medical director of Cancer Research UK.

"This study shows that social inequality in death rates demands attention, concentrating on ways to help less privileged people to stop smoking," he added.