Background: Both the predictors for tobacco use and the determinants of the amounts of tobacco consumed by smokers should be taken into account when designing prevention programmes. Methods: Using a sample of 12,948 individuals representative of the French population in 1999, multilevel models were used to carry out a comparative investigation for the predictors of tobacco use and the determinants of the amount of tobacco consumed by smokers. Results: At the individual level, a combination of risks (higher risk of smoking and larger amounts of tobacco consumed by smokers) was found for males, for individuals with a low level of education and for divorcees. At the level of the area of residence, both the risk of smoking (odds ratio 1.07, 95% confidence interval: 1.01–1.12 for an increase by one standard deviation) and the amount of tobacco consumed among smokers (percentage variation +4%, 95% confidence interval: 0% – +8%) increased with the gross domestic product per capita. Conclusion: This study justifies the combined use, in such analyses, of consumption levels for smokers in addition to the risk of smoking, in order to identify the profiles with the highest risk. It was possible to identify various groups with both a high risk of tobacco use and a high level of consumption among smokers, on the basis of individual (male, divorced or less educated) and environmental (living in a high GDP area) factors. The prevention efforts should thus be focused on such groups.

Received 10 October 2002. Accepted 4 December 2002.

Correspondence: Basile Chaix, INSERM U444, Faculté de Médecine Saint-Antoine, 27 rue Chaligny, 75571 Paris Cedex 12, France, tel. +33 (0)1 44 738 443, fax +33 (0)1 44 738 462, e-mail: chaix@u444.jussieu.fr

Author notes

1Research Unit in Epidemiology and Information Sciences, National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM U444), France 2National Institute for Prevention and Health Education (INPES), France