Was John Reid right? Smoking, class, and pleasure: a population-based cohort study in England

Authors:  I. A. Lang , Elizabeth Gardener , Felicia Huppert and David Melzer
Type: Journal Articles
Publication date: March 2007
Published in:  Public Health Vol. 121, No. 4


To assess whether there is a relationship between smoking and levels of overall quality of life, or with the pleasure domain of quality of life, in lower socio-economic groups (SES).

Study design

Cohort study involving 9176 individuals aged 50 years and over who participated in the Health Survey for England and were followed up in Wave 1 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing in 2002.


We classified smokers as never-smokers, ex-smokers and current smokers, and used household wealth as a marker for socio-economic position. Pleasure was assessed using the pleasure subscale of the CASP-19 instrument, a 19-point measure of quality of life that covers four theoretical domains: control, autonomy, self-realization and pleasure.


We found that the odds ratio for experiencing lower than median levels of pleasure for smokers with low SES was 1.42 (95% CI 1.16-1.74), and for all smokers was 1.33 (95% CI 1.17-1.51). The same pattern of associations was found when the outcome was total CASP-19 score or positive GHQ-12 score.


We found no evidence to support a claim that smoking is associated with heightened levels of pleasure, either in people with low SES or in the general population. In fact, our results suggest the opposite: that smoking is associated with lower levels of pleasure and poorer overall quality of life. Policy decisions on smoking should consider its potentially harmful effect on quality of life and pleasure as well as on other aspects of health.

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