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.