Top Countries where People Smoke the Most – 1980/2021

The origin of the cigarette is controversial. It was perhaps invented by Muslim soldiers who, during the siege of Acre (in present-day Israel) in 1831-2, apparently replaced the hookah with paper tubes emptied of gunpowder and manually crushed tobacco. Others attribute the invention to British soldiers who landed in Acre in 1840 following military action against Egypt. Without pipes or tobacco, they made special cigarettes from rolled tea leaves.

The arrival in the modern world, not so much of the cigarette as of the use of inhaling the smoke produced by the burning of tobacco leaves, occurred on 28 November 1587 when Raleigh brought tobacco leaves and other plants from the lands adjacent to the Orinoco River to Britain, then under the reign of Elizabeth I. In 1885, James Buchanan Duke began the industrial production and marketing of modern cigarettes. (Source:

In today’s article, we will look at various data on smoking and its use. We will answer questions such as: which are the top countries in the world for cigarette consumption? Which countries sell the most cigarettes per day? Countries where People Smoke the Most – 1980/2021.

Countries where People Smoke the Most – 1980/2012

Let’s start with the first figure. If the number of people in the world who smoke every day in 2012 was 18.60 per cent, which countries have the highest rate? Kiribati, the central Pacific republic, is the world’s top territory for this parameter. In fact, in Kiribati, 42% of the population over the age of 15 smokes every day. This is a very high figure, with Papua New Guinea in second place, more than four points behind at 37.9%. A number of European countries are also among the world leaders. These include North Macedonia, which has a value of 36.9%, followed by Greece. In seventh place worldwide is Russia, with a daily smoking rate of 31.9%. Russia is the largest state, in terms of population, within the top 10 and top 15. While Kiribati’s figure is for a population of less than 120,000, Russia’s is 31.9% for a population of around 143 million. The figure for France, in fourteenth place, is also very high. In percentage terms it is 27.3%, but in total terms the population of this country is 67 million. Obviously, the number of people under 15 years of age (not counted in the calculation) has to be subtracted from the total population.

In order to remember all the victims of the Second World War, here is a video with the deaths in each country. Looking at the figure for 1980, Kiribati is again at the top of this list. The figure was higher than in 2012. In 1980, 48% of people in Kiribati smoked every day. Almost half the population. So in over 30 years, the rate of people who smoke every day has dropped by about 6 points. In second place, in 1980, was Poland with 42.3%. In third place was Papua New Guinea (second in 2012), which had a figure of 38.5%. Canada, Great Britain, Japan, Chile and South Korea are also in the top 15. While in 1980 Nepal was in 15th place with a value of 34.3%, in 2012 the 15th position was held by Laos with 27.3%. It is interesting to note, therefore, that daily consumption has declined substantially over time. Below we will look at the national data.

Share of People who Smoke Every Day – World – 1980/2012

In the chapter above we saw the data nation by nation, territory by territory. In this next chapter we will look at the global figure. From 1980 to 2012, has the proportion of the population who smoke every day changed? And if so, by how much? While more than 1 in 4 people worldwide smoked every day in 1980 (25.1%), this figure has dropped significantly over time. In 2012, the proportion of people who smoke every day is 18.6%. Less than one person in five smokes every day (over the age of 15). The drop was therefore 6.5 points in such a short period.

Daily consumption of cigarettes per smoker

We have seen which countries in the world have the highest percentage of smokers. But which are the top countries in the world for daily cigarette consumption per smoker? So if we take the non-smokers out of the calculation, how many cigarettes do they smoke on average per day? To answer this question, we use the graph prepared by Our World in Data (highly recommended site).

To remember all the victims of the Second World War, here is a video with the deaths in each country. The first country in the world for daily cigarette consumption is Suriname. To see the data, click on “Table” in the graph. According to this data, the daily consumption of cigarettes in Surinam was 108.90. Translated in the “consumerist” way, that’s just over 5 packs of 20 cigarettes a day. And the figure, surprising and very high, is down from 1980 where the average was 129 cigarettes, over 6 packs of 20. In second place is Saint Vincent and in third place Brunei. But the first two territories/countries/nations have a much higher figure than the average. From fourth place onwards, occupied by Malta with 40.30 cigarettes, there follow several countries with similar values, including Eritre, Antigua and Barbuda and others. Below 30 cigarettes, again in 2012, are countries such as Cuba, Canada, Croatia, Slovakia and others.

In terms of percentage change, on a relative level, Mauritania has grown the most from an average of 14 cigarettes per day in 1980 to 41.80 in 2012. Relative growth was up 199%. Among the countries that grew the most were Vietnam, up 14%, and also – surprisingly – Norway, which went from 4.80 in 1980 to 11.20 in 2012 (up 133%). Among the countries that have experienced a decrease in daily cigarette consumption are Tajikistan with 88%, Cape Verde with -86% and Seychelles with -80%. To see the data, just click on “table” and click on Relative Change.

Smoking Rates By Country 2021

What about the figures for 2021? The latest available data can be found here: Below I have compiled a ranking of the top 10 nations, territories or countries for the highest proportion, in percentage, of smokers.

In first place, also in 2021, is Kiribati (according to this parameter, the figure has risen above 50% with 52.4%). This is followed by Nauru, Greece, Serbia and Russia.

Source and links

To write this article and video I used several sources including Our World in Data. I recommend, if you want, to visit this site which is a source of many insights that we make on our site.

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