Smoking is 'almost completely absent' from death certificates

The 'almost complete absence' of references to smoking on UK death certificates means important health data are being lost, University College London researchers warn.

The researchers examined 2,129 death certificates issued at University College London Hospital between 2003 and 2009. Only 0.1% cited smoking as the underlying cause of death and only 0.5% included it in the list of other contributory conditions.

Among 279 deaths from lung cancer and COPD only two certificates recorded smoking as cause of death. But 45% of these deaths occurred in current smokers and 23% in former smokers, the researchers said.

‘The almost complete absence of smoking on death certificates was most surprising in cases of lung cancer and COPD where the causal association with smoking is strongest and the prevalence of smoking among the deceased was high,’ they said.

‘This is a lost opportunity to gather important epidemiological and pathological information on smoking-related mortality.’

One reason doctors may not mention smoking was a desire not to distress relatives because of stigma surrounding smoking, the researchers said. This was not the case with alcohol, which was cited as a direct or contributory cause of death in 57% of certificates including diagnoses linked to alcohol use.

Smoking and alcohol have been citable as a direct or underlying cause of death, without coroner involvement, since 1992.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

GMC sign

Overseas-graduate GPs fare worse in medical tribunals due to lack of legal help

UK GPs who graduated overseas face worse outcomes in GMC cases because they are far...

Woman using HRT patch

Practical advice for GPs on prescribing HRT

GP menopause specialists Dr Louise Newson and Dr Olivia Jones provides an overview...

Vaccination tracker

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

GPs across the UK have led the largest-ever NHS vaccination programme in response...

NHS logo on tiled wall

PCNs falling short on 26,000 staff target and need more flexibility, GPs warn

Government plans to bring in 26,000 staff by 2024 to support general practice are...

Talking General Practice logo with picture of Dr Ed Cantelo and Dr Tommy Perkins

Podcast: How two GPs set up a business to advise doctors about finance

Talking General Practice speaks to GPs Dr Tommy Perkins and Dr Ed Cantelo from Medics...

Houses of Parliament

MPs from all parties call on government to do more on GP shortage

MPs from all parties have warned the government that it needs to do more to tackle...