Over the past several decades, smoking, one of crucial lifestyle factors, has been known as a major determinant of premature and preventable mortality and morbidity. In addition, it is well documented that people of lower socioeconomic position are significantly more likely to smoke cigarettes. The purpose of this study is to examine socioeconomic differentials in smoking rates. This study took as its sample 21,417 men and women aged 25 and over drawn from the data of the Korea National Health and Nutrition Survey for the years 1998, 2001, and 2005. Socioeconomic indicators used were education, occupation and household equivalent income. Between 1998 and 2005, age-standardized smoking rates decreased among men aged 25-64 and 65+ and among women aged 65+, but increased among women aged 25-64. Education and income were inversely associated with smoking for both men and women. Smoking rates were higher among those with manual occupations than among those in non-manual occupations for both men and women. Based on the relative index of inequality (RII), unfavorable inequality trends toward low education were found in men aged 25-64. However, no such trends were found in men aged 65 and over. Continuous anti-smoking policy measures should be directed toward men whose smoking rates are still high. In addition, women's smoking pattern needs further investigation. This study found that the Korean government should make further efforts to develop anti-smoking policies and programs that are attuned to SES-related smoking pattern, with a view to reducing socioeconomic differentials in smoking rates.


Keywords: Smoking, socioeconomic inequality, anti-smoking policy, health inequality