ALMOST a quarter of people aged 15 or over in the European Union (EU) currently smoke, with higher proportions among men than women, according to figures from the European Health Interview Survey.
In 2014, 24% of people aged ≥15 in the EU smoked, either smoking cigarettes daily or as an occasional smoker. The figures reported by Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU, also show that across the EU 28.7% of men were smokers, compared to 19.5% of women. In every EU Member State, the proportion of smokers was highest among men rather than women. The greatest gender gap between smokers was reported in Lithuania, with 40.3% of men and 12.3% of women, or +28.0 percentage points (pp) in favour of men. This is followed by +27.3 pp measured in Romania (39.8% of men, 12.5% of women), +24.7 pp in Cyprus (41.9% men, 17.2% women), and +24.5 pp in Latvia (43.1% men, 18.6 women). In the UK, the gender gap was +3.1 pp with 18.9% of men and 15.8% of women being smokers.
The UK has one of the lowest rates of smokers at 17.3% among the EU Member States, beaten only by Sweden with a rate of 16.7%. Bulgaria has the highest proportion with around one-third of its population over 15 reported as smokers (34.8%), followed by Greece with 32.6%, Austria with 30.0%, and Slovakia with 29.6%.
The European Health Interview Survey also measured the proportion of passive smokers in the EU, where people are exposed to the involuntary inhalation of somebody else’s tobacco smoke. The figures showed that around 1 in 5 people (21.6%) aged over the age of 15 in the EU were exposed daily to tobacco smoke indoors in 2014. The highest rate was found in Greece with 64.2% of its population affected. Croatia had the second highest proportion at 44.7%. The four countries with the lowest proportion reported passive smoking affecting <10% of their population: Sweden with 5.9%, Finland with 6.3%, Portugal with 8.6%, and Hungary with 9.9%.
Jack Redden, Reporter