January 10, 2014

Chart of the Week: Where the smokers are

smokingFifty years after the first U.S. Surgeon General’s report on smoking’s health hazards, smoking has become less common not just in the U.S. but throughout the world (a few outliers like Austria and Bulgaria aside). Between 1980 and 2012, smoking prevalence fell by 42% among women and 25% by men, according to the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. But that still means millions of people are puffing away — and, as the institute notes, due to population growth, the absolute number of smokers worldwide has increased. But where are they?

This fascinating map is part of a set of interactive graphics compiled and published by the institute earlier this week (a companion article appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, though only the abstract is freely accessible). The institute’s researchers derived their estimates from a wide range of data sources, including national and multi-country surveys (such as the US Agency for International Development’s Demographic and Health Surveys and the World Health Organization’s Global Youth Tobacco Surveys), and UN and government statistics on tobacco production and cigarette sales. They then used complex statistical modeling methods to synthesize and standardize the data and generate prevalence and consumption estimates for all years and all countries.

Through the interactives you can investigate smoking prevalence (defined as the percentage of the population that smokes every day), cigarette consumption per smoker, and other indicators in 187 countries by age and sex, for all years between 1980 and 2012. A separate chart (also interactive) shows the number of smokers by super-region, region and country.

Smoking is most common in Kiribati, a small island nation in the Pacific, where an estimated 48% of the population (54.4% of men, 31.3% of women) smoke daily. It’s least prevalent in Antigua and Barbuda, where just 5% of the population smokes daily. Smoking prevalence for both sexes in the U.S. was 16% in 2012, down from 31% in 1980. Teen smoking is most common in Belgium, where an estimated 26% of teens ages 15 to 19 smoke — though in the Solomon Islands, 14% of children ages 10 to 14 have already picked up the daily habit.

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: Health

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.


  1. Ron Perrier4 years ago

    I meant this comment to go under the income inequality post. thanks for inserting there if possible

  2. Ron Perrier4 years ago

    In the UN Happiness Index, the USA is #17, just behind Mexico at #16 and a long way behind all the Scandinavian countries who are #1,2,5,7 and 9 and Canada #6 (I am Canadian). All these countries have relatively few rich people and a gigantic middle class, which is fast disappearing in your country.
    You have the craziest country – more people in jail than anywhere else in the world (by a long shot), more military than the rest of the world combined, 50,000 gun deaths/year, 1 gun per citizen on average, 40 million with no health insurance causing 60% of bankruptcies, a failing public education system, weird politics where the president can be elected not receiving the majority of the vote, only 20% of congressional districts aren’t predetermined because of gerrymandering, a legal system that only the rich can navigate, and incredible wealth inequality. I could go on and on.
    Shake your head – you have an immoral society that doesn’t look after its citizens. And many still think that anybody can achieve anything in the USA – what hogwash.

    1. Marlene4 years ago

      I agree with you totally. We are the only country in the world not on the metric system which says a lot. We still have the penny, which says even more as it costs us 2 cents to make a 1 cent penny. The reason we have it is political, not practical. No decent public rail system. The health care system, great for the insured. A nightmare for the uninsured or underinsured. Drug laws which vary tremendously from state to state and an overarching Federal drug law that is non-flexible. A Congress that is the joke of the free world. But after all that, all those faults, still a great country of great people, who welcome people from around the world. And for those that can and do make it, they can make it very big here.