Background: Few studies have examined individual transitions in smoking status in national populations. Methods: A representative sample of 21,970 men and women aged 15–64 were questioned regarding current smoking status and smoking status 12 months ago. Results: 1.56% of respondents had started to smoke and 1.58% had quit smoking. Becoming a smoker was significantly associated with younger age and lower social economic status (SES). Among women, many new smokers were between the age of 30 and 34, presumably due to relapse after pregnancy. High SES smokers quit at a younger age then lower SES groups. Conclusion: To reduce smoking prevalence in The Netherlands, more attention should be given to women aged 30–34 years and to people from the lower SES groups, especially those under the age of 45.

Received 15 August 2000. Accepted 9 January 2001.

Author notes

1DEFACTO ‐ for a smoke free future, The Hague, The Netherlands 2National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Department of Chronic Diseases Epidemiology, The Netherlands 3National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Department of Public Health Status and Forecasts, The Netherlands