What Are the Ten Countries with the Highest Percentage of Smokers?

January 23, 2016  |  Smoking

You might be surprised by the data on smoking, but the United States does not rank at the top of the list for percentage of people who smoke and for number of cigarettes smoked per capita. If per capita smoking rates are listed, all of the top countries are from Eastern Europe, South Korea, Kazakhs and Japan. Surprisingly, China does not rank as high as Japan! Every country with a high per capita smoking rate has little to no regulation of smoking or tobacco.

Smoking Map

Another way to list the smoking rate is to study the percentage of people who smoke in a given country. The following ten countries are ranked as the top ten places in the world for number of people who smoke.

  1. This is surprising because Austria is one of the few developed nations that are just beginning to enact smoking bans. They aren’t just at the top of the list, they blow away the list by 8 percentage points. 47% of all people smoke in Austria, even though a pack is very expensive.
  2. Papua New Guinea. 44% of all people smoke here with a whopping 60% of men. Often boys start smoking as a matter of course in their early teens. Smoking bans have been put into place starting in 2011.
  3. 41% of people smoke here – almost 40% of young teen girls start smoking. Smoking bans are in the Senate waiting for a vote.
  4. Russian Federation. In this country, over 60% of the men and 39% of the total population smokes. Cigarettes are very cheap in Russia. Smoking bans are just being contemplated, due to the high tobacco-related death rates.
  5. Approximately 39% of the population smokes, over half of the male population. Bulgarians are also one of the world’s heaviest smokers with over 2,800 cigarettes consumed per capita. An indoor smoking ban has just been instituted in 2012.
  6. 37% of the population smokes here. The tobacco-related death rate is very high here (30% of males died of complications from smoking in 2004). No smoking bans are on the table, but the government just took over the tobacco industry in September 2012 to control the sales of tobacco.
  7. Czech Republic. 36% of the population smokes in this country, which has the highest rates of teen smoking in the world. There are no bans in place here.
  8. 32% of the population smokes in Romania with over 90% of children exposed to second hand smoke in their home environment. Romanians typically buy their cigarettes on the black market to avoid high taxes.
  9. 31% smoke in Turkey with 89% of their children constantly exposed to second-hand smoke. Turkey is one of the highest tobacco harvesters and producers in the world.
  10. 30.5% of the population smokes in this country, men far more than women (as in most Eastern European countries).

What is not listed in this chart is Syria which, although they did not make the top ten list, is the heaviest smoking nation per capita with Bulgaria close behind. It is clear that regulation and bans play key roles in decreasing not only smoking in a population, but also smoking-related death and disease.

Related: Quit smoking guide by RRCProgram