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Greece Has Second-Highest Number of Smokers in EU

Greece smokers
Greece now has the dubious distinction of being the country in the EU with the second-highest number of smokers. Credit: Kristoffer Trolle/CC2

Despite many years of anti-smoking campaigns, Greece now has the dubious distinction of being the country in the European Union with the second-highest number of daily smokers.

According to the newest data released by EUROSTAT, the EU’s statistical authority, only Bulgaria exceeds its neighbor Greece in this unenviable statistic, with 28.7% of its citizens smoking on a daily basis, while 23.6% of Greeks do so every day.

The results come from information that was collected in 2019, the last year for which such figures are available.

Next in line on this unfortunate list are the nations of Latvia, 22.1% of whose residents take a puff every day, followed by Germany, at 21.9%, and Croatia, at 21.8%.

Fewer smokers all the time in Greece due to anti-smoking campaigns

On the opposite side of the spectrum, with the least number of smokers per capita, are the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, with 6.4%, and Finland, with 9.9%; then Luxembourg, at 10.5%; Portugal, with 11.5%; and Denmark, with 11.7%.

As of two years ago, less than one fifth, or 18.4%, of all those who lived in the EU and who were 15 years or older admitted that they smoked cigarettes each day. A total of 12.6% of those in the EU smoked fewer than 20 cigarettes daily, while a surprising 5.9% smoked 20 or more cigarettes every day of their lives.

This small segment of hardened smokers constituted only 1.0% of the smoking population in Sweden, but it was a whopping 12.9% in the nation of Bulgaria. Those who said that they smoked fewer than 20 cigarettes every day was 5.3% in Sweden but a disturbing 15.8% in Bulgaria.

Continuing with a longstanding tradition, there were far more male smokers than females, with 22.3% of men aged 15 years and over reporting themselves as daily cigarette smokers, over 7% more than females, only 14.8% of whom smoke.

Nationally, the amount of males who were daily smokers went from just 5.9% in Sweden to an incredible 37.6% in Bulgaria. This range was reflected in females as well, with 6.8% of Swedish women smoking daily and 20.7% of Bulgarian women reporting that they did so.

Men smoked more than women in all the nations of the EU except for Denmark, in which males smoked 0.1% less than females.

Number of youngsters who are smokers decreases by more than half

In recent years, Greeks have halved their smoking habits, going from a nation in which nearly everyone smoked to one in which there are now many curbs on doing so in public.

In a piece of welcome news for anti-smoking campaigners, it was announced on Wednesday that Greeks cut their smoking by more than one half over the last decade.

Smoking was reduced by fully 52.4% overall over the last ten years, according to new ELSTAT data, and crucial gains were made in the 14-16 demographic.

As of September, 2019, 24.9% of adults in Greece reported that they smoked more than one cigarette per day. Almost four percent, or 3.7%, reported that they were “occasional” smokers, who smoked less than seven cigarettes per week.

Using information from 8,500 Greek households gleaned from studies in 2009, 2014 and 2019, experts say that the number of daily smokers decreased by 24.5% and occasional smokers decreased in number by an impressive 38.3%.

However, in the crucial younger demographic, those under the age of 24 are increasingly less likely to smoke, with reductions amounting to a whopping 52.4% over those years.

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