Variation in smoking attributable all-cause mortality across municipalities in Belgium, 2018: application of a Bayesian approach for small area estimations

Polina Putrik*, Martina Otavova, Christel Faes, Brecht Devleesschauwer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)


BACKGROUND: Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable mortality and morbidity worldwide, with the European Region having the highest prevalence of tobacco smoking among adults compared to other WHO regions. The Belgian Health Interview Survey (BHIS) provides a reliable source of national and regional estimates of smoking prevalence; however, currently there are no estimates at a smaller geographical resolution such as the municipality scale in Belgium. This hinders the estimation of the spatial distribution of smoking attributable mortality at small geographical scale (i.e., number of deaths that can be attributed to tobacco). The objective of this study was to obtain estimates of smoking prevalence in each Belgian municipality using BHIS and calculate smoking attributable mortality at municipality level.

METHODS: Data of participants aged 15 + on smoking behavior, age, gender, educational level and municipality of residence were obtained from the BHIS 2018. A Bayesian hierarchical Besag-York-Mollie (BYM) model was used to model the logit transformation of the design-based Horvitz-Thompson direct prevalence estimates. Municipality-level variables obtained from Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, were used as auxiliary variables in the model. Model parameters were estimated using Integrated Nested Laplace Approximation (INLA). Deviance Information Criterion (DIC) and Conditional Predictive Ordinate (CPO) were computed to assess model fit. Population attributable fractions (PAF) were computed using the estimated prevalence of smoking in each of the 589 Belgian municipalities and relative risks obtained from published meta-analyses. Smoking attributable mortality was calculated by multiplying PAF with age-gender standardized and stratified number of deaths in each municipality.

RESULTS: BHIS 2018 data included 7,829 respondents from 154 municipalities. Smoothed estimates for current smoking ranged between 11% [Credible Interval 3;23] and 27% [21;34] per municipality, and for former smoking between 4% [0;14] and 34% [21;47]. Estimates of smoking attributable mortality constituted between 10% [7;15] and 47% [34;59] of total number of deaths per municipality.

CONCLUSIONS: Within-country variation in smoking and smoking attributable mortality was observed. Computed estimates should inform local public health prevention campaigns as well as contribute to explaining the regional differences in mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1699
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2022


  • Adult
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Belgium/epidemiology
  • Cities
  • Humans
  • Smoking/epidemiology
  • Tobacco Smoking

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