Tobacco consumption statistics
Data presented in this article refer to year 2014.
A third wave of the European health interview survey (the source of
these data) is being conducted in 2019.
Planned article update: November 2021
In 2014, men in the EU were more likely than women to be daily smokers.
The proportion of daily smokers in the EU in 2014 ranged from 8.7 % in Sweden to 27 % in Greece and Bulgaria.
In 2014, 6 % of the EU population over 15 years of age consumed at least 20 cigarettes per day, and around 13 % consumed less than 20.
This article presents statistics on the proportion of adults in the European Union (EU) who are daily smokers of cigarettes. In many countries the prevalence of smoking has stabilised or declined in recent decades. Nevertheless, smoking remains the largest avoidable health risk in the EU and its consequences are a major burden on health care systems.
The data in this article are from the European health interview survey (EHIS) which was conducted between 2013 and 2015 and which covered persons aged 15 and over. These data indicate that substantial inequalities exist in terms of sex, age and education level concerning the proportion of adults who are daily smokers of cigarettes, while there are also considerable differences between the EU Member States with respect to smoking habits.
Daily smokers of cigarettes
Men were more likely than women to be daily smokers
Among the 27 EU Member States for which data are available, the proportion of daily smokers ranged from 8.7 % in Sweden to 27.0 % in Greece and 27.3 % in Bulgaria (see Table 1).
Among men, the proportion of daily smokers ranged from 7.5 % in Sweden to 37.3 % in Cyprus, while among women, the proportion ranged from 8.3 % in Romania to 22.0 % in Austria. In 26 of these Member States the proportion of daily smokers was higher among men than among women, with Sweden as the only exception with close to 2 percentage points (pp) less of male smokers compared to female smokers. The largest gender difference, in percentage point terms, was in Lithuania and Romania, where the proportion of daily smokers among men was around 24 pp points above the share recorded among women. Gender differences in excess of 20 points were also observed in Cyprus and Latvia (see Figure 1). The smallest gender differences were observed in Finland (2 pp), the United Kingdom and Denmark (1 pp).
The proportion of daily smokers generally decreased after the age group 45–54 years
In broad terms, at EU level, the age profile of daily smokers was similar for men and women: the proportion increased between the age groups 15–24 and 25–34; for the age groups from 25–34 to 45–54 the proportion of daily smokers remained generally high; thereafter the shares fell, with by far the lowest proportion of daily smokers among the older age groups. Most of the EU Member States followed this broad pattern, with the highest proportions reported between the ages of 25 and 54 and the lowest in the age groups over 65 (see Table 2). More than 45 % of men were daily smokers in Bulgaria in the age groups between 35 and 54 and also in Cyprus in the age group 25 and 34 and Latvia in the age groups between 35 and 44.
In general, the gender difference in daily smoking was greatest in percentage point terms in the age groups with the highest prevalence of smokers, while in relative terms it was greatest among the age groups with the oldest people. A notable example of the latter was Lithuania where the proportion of daily smokers in the age group over 75 was 35 times higher among men (7 %) than among women (0.2 %). On average, the smallest relative differences between men and women were observed in the youngest age group (15–24). For a few age groups in a few of the participating EU Member States the prevalence of daily smoking among men and women was similar, or even higher among women, for example in Sweden, in the age groups over 35, in Denmark (in the 15–24, 55-64 and 65-74 age groups) and in Austria in the age group 55–64.
The proportion of daily smokers of cigarettes was generally highest among people having completed upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education, although there were quite different patterns for men and women
From Figure 2 it can be seen that the prevalence of daily smoking was generally lowest among people having completed tertiary education and highest among those having completed upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education. In Greece, Cyprus and Romania the lowest prevalence was reported for persons having completed at most lower secondary education.
A similar analysis is presented in Table 3, but with separate data for men and women. The lowest proportions of daily smokers among men were recorded for those having completed tertiary education, the only exception among participating EU Member States being recorded in Romania.
For women, the pattern was somewhat different, as relatively low proportions of daily smokers were reported not only for women having completed tertiary education, but also for women having completed at most lower secondary education. As such, in 19 EU Member States the highest share of daily smokers among women was recorded among those having completed upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education. Looking in more detail, relatively low proportions of daily smokers were reported in Cyprus, Romania and Lithuania for women having completed at most lower secondary education, at least 4 pp lower than for women in either of the other education categories shown in Table 3. Equally, a relatively low proportion of daily smokers was reported in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom for women having completed tertiary education, at least 10 pp lower than the average for women in either of the other two categories.
Level of cigarette consumption
The remaining analysis in this article focuses on the level of consumption, distinguishing between smokers consuming on average 20 cigarettes or more per day (hereafter referred to as heavy smokers) and daily smokers with a lower level of consumption (hereafter referred to as light smokers).
In 2014, 5.9 % of the population over 15 years of age consumed at least 20 cigarettes per day, and around 12.6 % consumed less than 20. Heavy smokers made up the majority of daily smokers in Greece and also in Turkey, while in Sweden the share was 14 % and in Finland all daily smokers consumed less than 20 cigarettes a day (see Figure 3). Daily light smokers of cigarettes accounted for a fairly similar share of the total adult population in most of the EU Member States, ranging from with 7.5 % in Sweden, 8.3 % in Denmark and 8.8 % in Luxembourg to 16.5 % in Latvia, 17.6 % in Slovakia and 19.6 % in Hungary..
In 2014, close to 1 in every 7 adults in Greece were heavy smokers
In contrast, the proportion of heavy smokers in the adult population varied somewhat more, from (the already mentioned) 0.0 % in Finland, 1.2 % in Sweden and 3.6 % in the United Kingdom to 10.0 % in Poland, 11.8 % in Croatia, 12.1 % in Cyprus and 12.7 % in Bulgaria, peaking at 15.1 % in Greece. In line with the general pattern for all daily smokers, men were more likely than women to be heavy smokers, as can be seen from Figure 4.
Among men, the proportion of heavy smokers within the adult population was 10.7 % or less in 18 EU Member States, while it exceeded one fifth in Cyprus and Greece. Among women, this proportion did not exceed 10.0 % in any Member State, with shares of 1.2 % or lower in Romania, Sweden, Lithuania and Finland, and 6.5 % or over in Bulgaria, Croatia and Austria, while peaking at 9.4 % in Greece.
Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)
The European health interview survey (EHIS) is the source of information for this article. It aims to provide harmonised statistics across the EU Member States in relation to the respondents’ health status, lifestyle (health determinants — including smoking habits) and their use of healthcare services. This source is documented in more detail in this background article which provides information on the scope of the data, its legal basis, the methodology employed, as well as related concepts and definitions.
The second wave of the EHIS was conducted in all 28 EU Member States during the period 2013–15 according to European Commission Regulation 141/2013 and its subsequent amendment to take account of the accession of Croatia to the EU (European Commission Regulation 68/2014).
Note on tables: For cells which include symbol ':' data are not available.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing nearly six million people a year. The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety describes tobacco consumption as ‘the single largest avoidable health risk in the European Union’. Many forms of cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases are linked to tobacco use. Around half of smokers die prematurely, depriving their families of income and raising the burden of health care.
The EU’s main policy measures related to tobacco and tobacco consumption aim to protect people from the hazardous effects of smoking and other forms of tobacco consumption, including against second-hand smoke. These include:
- the regulation of tobacco products, for example in terms of packaging, labelling, and ingredients, through the 2014 tobacco products Directive (2014/40) ;
- tobacco advertising restrictions, for example through the 2003 tobacco advertising Directive (2003/33);
- limitations where people may smoke, as supported by the 2009 Council Recommendation on smoke-free environments;
- tax measures and activities against illicit trade, for example the 2010 Directive on excise duty on tobacco which amended the structure and rates of duty with public health goals in mind;
- anti-smoking campaigns, such as the 2011–13 ‘ex-smokers are unstoppable’ campaign.
The EU Member States and the European Commission are active partners in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a legally binding international treaty that aims to reduce the damaging health and economic impacts of tobacco consumption.
An indicator on ‘Regular smokers’ is included in the health determinants chapter of the European core health indicators (ECHI).
General health statistics articles
- Health status (health_det)
- Tobacco consumption (hlth_smok)
- Daily smokers of cigarettes by sex, age and educational attainment level (%) (hlth_ehis_de3)
- Daily smokers of cigarettes by sex, age and income quintile (%) (hlth_ehis_de4)
- Daily smokers by number of cigarettes by sex, age and educational attainment level (%) (hlth_ehis_de5)
- Tobacco consumption (hlth_smok)
- European health interview survey (ESMS metadata file — hlth_det_esms); contains link to guidelines, questions and overview of the surveys in the participating countries
- Commission Regulation (EU) No 141/2013 implementing Regulation (EC) No 1338/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council on Community statistics on public health and health and safety at work, as regards statistics based on the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS)
- Commission Regulation (EU) No 68/2014 amending Regulation (EU) No 141/2013 by reason of the accession of Croatia to the European Union
- 2014 data not available for Ireland.