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Smoking is declining, but it is unevenly distributed among population groups. Our aim was to examine the socio-economic differences in smoking during 1978–2016 in Finland, a country with a history of strict tobacco control policy.
Annual population-based random sample data of 25–64-year-olds from 1978 to 2016 (N = 104,315) were used. Response rate varied between 84 and 40%. In addition to logistic regression analysis, absolute and relative educational differences in smoking were examined.
Smoking was more prevalent among the less educated but declined in all educational groups during the study period. Both absolute and relative differences in smoking between the less and highly educated were larger at the end of the study period than at the beginning. Cigarette price seemed to have a larger effect on the smoking among the less educated.
Socio-economic differences in smoking among the Finnish adult population have increased since the 1970s until 2016. Further actions are needed, especially focusing on lower socio-economic positions, to tackle inequalities in health. They should include support for smoking cessation and larger cigarette tax increases.