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Who smokes more, men or women?

Every 5th adult in the world smokes tobacco. But there are large differences between men and women.

More than one-third (35%) of men in the world smoke. Just over 6% of women do. Here is the data for men; here for women.

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 y-axis) compared with the same metric for women women (plotted on the x-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 43% of women smoke compared to 37% of men; and smoking rates in Denmark and Sweden show almost no sex difference.

In many countries – particularly across Asia and Africa – the differences are very large. We see these countries clustered on the far left, where smoking rates for women are very low – typically less than 5%. In Indonesia, 76% of men smoke but only 3% of women; in China it’s 48% of men versus 2% of women; and in Egypt half of men smoke whilst almost no women (0.2%) 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. You can find the world map of smoking rates in men here.

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