In 1992 the Australian Federal Statistician published (No.4382.0) the results of a large survey of the Australian population. It was designed to measure the numbers of smokers, ex-smokers and never-smokers and the prevalence of "long-term conditions" in each group. It is apparently the only such such study ever conducted. The "long-term conditions" assessed were:

arthritis

asthma

bronchitis, emphysema

neoplasm

hypertension

heart disease

atherosclerosis

high cholesterol

cerebrovascular disease (including after-effects of stroke)

The results, to some, were surprising.

Overall these conditions were commoner in never-smokers than smokers.

Arthritis, neoplasm, hypertension, heart disease and high cholesterol were all commoner in never-smokers than in smokers. Only asthma and bronchitis, emphysema were commoner in smokers.

11.0% of the smokers had none of these conditions compared with only 8.2% of never-smokers. A possible explanation for this result could be that the sickest smokers became ex-smokers. This can be discounted: from the data provided 9.0% of the group comprising smokers and ex-smokers had none of the 9 conditions.

This survey was of people living in households. It excluded those in hospitals and nursing homes. Could these latter two institutions have so many ill smokers that the survey is misleading? That can be discounted: there are too many ill non-smokers compared with so many healthy smokers. From the survey results it would require more than 1, 200, 000 ill smokers to be living in hospitals and nursing homes to produce even equality.

These results do not prove that smoking is good for health. Smokers, ex-smokers and never-smokers are all self-selected. It could be for example that people who decide to smoke are congenitally healthier than those who donít.

The conclusion to be drawn from this survey is that with regard to health, smokers are healthier than non-smokers.