Smoking among immigrants in metropolitan France

Smoking is a major public health problem; it is also one of the clearest markers of social inequality in health and mortality in developed countries.

Immigrants, most of whom are from underprivileged backgrounds, are overrepresented among those population subgroups with a strong propensity to smoke.

In this article, authors Myriam Khlat, Damien Bricard and Stéphane Legleye observe the smoking habits of population groups born outside metropolitan France; i.e., in a North African country (in this case immigrants were distinguished from former settlers in French colonial North Africa or repatriates), in sub-Saharan Africa, or French from overseas départements. Each of these groups was compared to the reference population, made up of French-born children of French parents, with adjustments for age and educational attainment.

The data concern 20,211 persons aged 18 to 70 questioned in French for the 2010 INPES (Institut National de Prévention et d’Education pour la Santé, National institute for health education and prevention) Health Barometer survey. 

Marked group disparities for smoking

The daily smoking levels of sub-Saharan immigrants and French from overseas départements are much lower than for the reference group. However, prevalence among male repatriates from North Africa is clearly excessive, while women immigrants from North Africa have the lowest smoking prevalence of all groups.

In the reference group, more men than women smoke, and roughly the same gender gap is found for the other groups studied, with the exception of North African immigrants, for whom the gap is much greater due to North African women’s much lower propensity to smoke.

Another regularity in the reference group is higher levels of smoking among men and women with relatively little education. The same social gradient characterizes male North African immigrants as well as male and female immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. The other groups—North African women, and men and women from overseas départements—show no significant variation in smoking prevalence by educational attainment.

These findings—marked disparities in smoking levels, the gender gap, social stratification—attest to immigrant group heterogeneity for smoking. The difference between men and women in the North African group is particularly striking. Meanwhile, immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa show quite low smoking levels, as do native French from the country’s overseas départements.

Source: Myriam Khlat, Damien Bricard and Stéphane Legleye, 2018, Smoking among immigrant groups in metropolitan France: prevalence levels, male-to-female ratios and educational gradients, BMC Public Health.

Contact: Myriam KhlatDamien Bricard and Stéphane Legleye

Online: May 2018