Tobacco Use in European Women is Double the Global Average and Decreasing Slowest
Smoking prevalence is higher amongst European women than anywhere else in the world.

Tobacco use amongst women in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) European region is more than double the global average and is reducing much slower than in all other regions.

Some 65 million women smoke in the region, representing 40% of all female smokers in the world, according to the WHO’s tobacco trends report released on Tuesday.

While the highest percentage of people over the age of 15 who currently use tobacco live in WHO’s South-East Asian Region (26.5%), the European region is not far behind (25.3%) – and by 2030, the European Region is projected to have the highest rates globally.  

Smoking trends in women (200-2030)

European countries with stubbornly high tobacco use include Bosnia and Herzegovina (35.8% of the population), Bulgaria and Cyprus (34%).

Meanwhile, Indonesia is the biggest tobacco user in South-East Asia with 36.3% prevalence.

The Western Pacific Region has the largest number of smokers – 368 million smokers in 2022. This is propelled by a number of small island states with very high rates – such as Nauru (47.2% in 2020), Papua New Guinea (41.5%) and Kiribati (39.9%). 

Overall, however, tobacco use is declining with about one in five adults worldwide consuming tobacco in 2022 – around 1.25 billion adults – compared to one in three in 2000.

Some 150 countries are successfully reducing tobacco use, with the WHO singling out Brazil and the Netherlands for their successes in implementing MPOWER tobacco control measures

Brazil has reduced tobacco use by 35% since 2010 and the Netherlands is on the verge of reaching 30% – the  voluntary global goal for 2025 (with 2010 as the baseline).

Only 56 countries globally will reach this goal, down four countries since the last report in 2021

Tobacco use continues to rise in Congo (Brazzaville), Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Oman, and Moldova, while progress is stagnant in nine other countries.

Massive smoking rate in Indonesian men

Far more men than women use tobacco, and in 2000 half the global male population over the age of 15 used tobacco. Through concerted anti-tobacco campaigns, largely funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, this percentage dropped to 41,6% in 2022 and is projected to decline to 30.6% by 2030. 

However, curbing smoking in Indonesian men – over 70% of whom smoke – remains a huge challenge.

Global tobacco use trends by sex.

“Good progress has been made in tobacco control in recent years, but there is no time for complacency,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, WHO director of Health Promotion.

“I’m astounded at the depths the tobacco industry will go to pursue profits at the expense of countless lives. We see that the minute a government thinks they have won the fight against tobacco, the tobacco industry seizes the opportunity to manipulate health policies and sell their deadly products.” 

The Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023, published by STOP and the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, shows that efforts to protect health policy from increased tobacco industry interference have deteriorated globally.

Next month countries are set to meet in Panama for the 10th Session of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Conference of Parties

Strengthening the WHO FCTC is a global health priority outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals. 

“WHO stands ready to support countries in defending evidenced based tobacco control measures in the face of industry interference,” according to the report.

Image Credits: Zaya Odeesho/ Unsplash, WHO.

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