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Nearly 1 Billion People Worldwide Still Smoke Everyday


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

Smoking prevalence is down in a lot of parts of the world, although increasing in others. Thomas Hawk/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Almost a billion people smoke every single day, according to a huge new study full of startling statistics on the world’s addiction to tobacco.

A full analysis of the 2015 Global Burden of Disease study has been published in The Lancet medical journal showing the worldwide prevalence of tobacco smoking. The study looked at 195 countries and the characteristics of their smoking habits, whether cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah, bidis, or any other form of smokable tobacco.


They found that nearly one in seven people worldwide (9.33 million) still smoke tobacco on a daily basis. Out of this, one out of every four men still smokes daily, as do one out in 20 women. The highest smoking prevalence for men can be seen in mid-level developed countries, mostly Southeast Asian nations. Whereas the highest smoking prevalence for women was observed in highly developed countries, such as Eastern Europe. The study notes "female prevalence of daily smoking significantly increased in Russia and Indonesia since 1990." 

Countries with the highest prevalence of male daily smokers:

1. Kiribati (48%)

2. Indonesia (47%)


3. Laos (47%)

4. Northern Mariana Islands (46%)

5. Armenia (43%)

6. Greenland (43%)


7. Belarus (42%)

8. Ukraine (41%)

9. Azerbaijan (40%)

10. Timor-Leste (40%)


Countries with the highest prevalence of female daily smokers:

1. Greenland (44%)

2. Bulgaria (28%)

3. Greece (27%)


4. Montenegro (26%)

5. Croatia (26%)

6. Northern Mariana Islands (25%)

7. Kiribati (25%)


8. Macedonia (23%)

9. Hungary (23%)

10. Austria (23%)

In terms of actual numbers of people, the countries with the most male daily smokers were China with 254 million, India with 91 million, and Indonesia with 50 million. For women, it was the US with 17 million female smokers, followed by China with 14 million, and India with 13.5 million. 


All this come as a sledgehammer to global health. One in 10 (11 percent) deaths in 2015 were attributed to smoking, with over half of these taking place in China, India, the United States, and Russia alone.

This statistics sounds pretty shocking but there have actually been strong declines in tobacco smoking over the past few decades. Smoking rates have decreased by 28 percent among men and 34 percent among women between 1990 to 2015.

Much is still to be done though. The study uses Brazil as a prime example of how nations can kick the habit. Brazil has had the third largest significant decline in smoking prevalence since 1990. This is largely thanks to government initiatives starting in 1996 that restricting tobacco advertising, installed smoking bans in certain public places, raised taxes on tobacco and introduced a minimum price on cigarettes. Pakistan, Panama, and India have had similar success stories with their anti-tobacco policies over the past 25 years.

"Robust tobacco control efforts have led to progress in reducing the deadly habit of smoking in much of the world, but much more can be done," senior author Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou of the University of Washington said in a statement. "Growth in the sheer number of daily smokers still outpaces the global decline in daily smoking rates, indicating the need to prevent more people from starting the tobacco habit and to encourage smokers to quit."


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