Who smokes more, men or women?

Nearly one-in-four adults in the world smoke tobacco. But there are large differences between men and women.

More than one-third of men in the world smoke. Less than one-in-ten women do.

In almost all countries it is true that more men smoke. In the visualization we see the share of men who smoke (plotted on the vertical axis) compared with the same metric for women (plotted on the horizontal axis).

The grey line in the plot represents equality in the prevalence: countries where smoking is more common in men will lie above this line; and countries where more women smoke lie below.

We see that almost all countries lie above the grey line, meaning a higher share of men smoke. But there are a few exceptions: in the Pacific island-state of Nauru, more women smoke than men; and smoking rates in Denmark and Iceland show almost no sex difference.

In many countries β€” particularly across Asia and Africa β€” the differences are very large. We see these countries clustered on the far left, where smoking rates for women are very low β€” typically less than 5%. In Indonesia, 71% of men smoke but only 4% of women; in China it’s 49% of men versus 2% of women; and in Egypt almost half of men smoke whilst almost no women (0.4%) do.

We also see this when we look at a map of smoking among women across the world: across much of Africa and Asia, rates are very low. For comparison, here is the world map of smoking rates in men.

The fact that men are more likely than women to smoke is reflected in health statistics: particularly lung cancer, for which smoking is a primary risk factor. We see that in nearly every country in the world, men are more likely to die from lung cancer.