High prevalence of smoking in the Roma population seems to have no genetic background

Szilvia Fiatal, Réka Tóth, Ágota Moravcsik-Kornyicki, Zsigmond Kósa, János Sándor, Martin McKee, Ádány Róza*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: The prevalence of smoking in Romani of both genders is significantly higher than in the general population. Our aim was to determine whether a genetic susceptibility contributes to the high prevalence of smoking among Roma in a study based on data collected from crosssectional surveys. Methods: Twenty single nucleotide polymorphisms known to be closely related to smoking behavior were investigated in DNA samples of Hungarian Roma (N = 1273) and general (N = 2388) populations. Differences in genotype and allele distribution were investigated. Genetic risk scores (GRSs) were generated to estimate the joint effect of single nucleotide polymorphisms in genes COMT, CHRNA3/4/5, CYP2A6, CTNNA3, DRD2, MAOA, KCNJ6, AGPHD1, ANKK1, TRPC7, GABRA4, and NRXN1. The distribution of scores in study populations was compared. Age, gender, and body mass index were considered as confounding factors. Results: Difference in allele frequencies between the study populations remained significant for 16 polymorphisms after multiple test correction (p < .003). Unexpectedly, the susceptible alleles were more common in the general population, although the protective alleles were more prevalent among Roma. The distribution of unweighted GRS in Roma population was left shifted compared to general population (p < .001). Furthermore, the median weighted GRS was lower among the subjects of Roma population compared to the subjects of general population (p < .001) even after adjustment for confounding factors. Conclusions: The harmful smoking behavior of the Roma population could not be accounted for by genetic susceptibility; therefore, interventions aimed at smoking prevention and cessation should focus on cultural and environmental factors. Implications: This is the first study designed to determine whether genetic background exists behind the harmful behavior of the smoking of the Roma population. Although the frequencies of susceptible and protective alleles strongly differ between the Hungarian Roma and general populations, it is shown that calculated GRSs being significantly higher in the general population, which do not support the hypothesis on the genetic susceptibility of the Roma population. Interventions aimed at smoking cessation in the Roma population should preferentially target cultural and environmental factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2260-2267
Number of pages8
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


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