NPR : News

Filed Under:

Where The Smokers Are Now: Bulgaria, Greece And Macedonia

Since the surgeon general's report laid bare the health hazards from smoking 50 years ago, the proportion of Americans who smoke has fallen dramatically.

About 19 percent of American adults smoke these days, compared with about 42 percent in 1965.

Smoking has become less prevalent in other countries, too, including Canada, Mexico and Iceland.

Overall, the prevalence of smoking has gone down worldwide over the past few decades. For men, smoking dropped 10 percentage points to 31 percent in 2012, from 41 percent in 1980. For women, it has been almost halved, falling from about 11 percent to 6 percent over the same period.

But that's not the case everywhere. So where is smoking still common?

Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation crunched the data and made them easy to noodle with.

The map above shows hot spots. Greece, Bulgaria and Macedonia look like the burning tip of a cigarette. Russia, France and Austria aren't far behind.

Click here or on the map to find the tobacco visualization tools put together by the institute.

One of the interactive maps lets you look at how prevalence changed from 2011 to 2012. Smoking has gone up recently in Sweden, Belarus and Mexico. It's down in the U.S., Hungary and Argentina.

You can also go beyond prevalence, and see how many cigarettes smokers are lighting up each year. By that measure, Suriname stands out on the high side.

One last thing about prevalence. While the proportion of the world's population that smokes has shrunk, the number of people on the earth continues to rise. So when you do the math, the total number of smokers has increased, despite all the public health efforts against tobacco use.

Bottom line: There were 967 million people who smoked in 2012, compared with 721 million in 1980.

The methods the researchers used to estimate smoking and the results of their analysis were published in JAMA, the American Medical Association's journal.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit


From Trembling Teacher To Seasoned Mentor: How Tim Gunn Made It Work

Gunn, the mentor to young designers on Project Runway, has been a teacher and educator for decades. But he spent his childhood "absolutely hating, hating, hating, hating school," he says.

How Do We Get To Love At 'First Bite'?

It's the season of food, and British food writer Bee Wilson has a book on how our food tastes are formed. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with her about her new book, "First Bite: How We Learn to Eat."

Osceola At The 50-Yard Line

The Seminole Tribe of Florida works with Florida State University to ensure it that its football team accurately presents Seminole traditions and imagery.

Payoffs For Prediction: Could Markets Help Identify Terrorism Risk?

In a terror prediction market, people would bet real money on the likelihood of attacks. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Stephen Carter about whether such a market could predict — and deter — attacks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.