Tobacco use

1. Key messages

The percentage of daily smokers was close to 19% in Belgium in 2013, which is similar to the EU-15 average prevalence. It has substantially decreased over the past 15 years. It is higher in men than in women. It is slightly lower in Flanders than in Wallonia and Brussels.
Smoking habits start in adolescence, with 17% daily smokers among the 15–24-year-olds in 2013. Since 1997, the prevalence of daily smokers decreased in young men but not in young women, who smoked in 2013 slightly more than men. Young people should be a target for health promotion policies.
There are large socio-economic differences in the smoking behavior: the proportion of daily smokers is 2.5 times smaller in the higher versus the lowest educated people. The decrease in the prevalence of daily smokers is mainly driven by people with a high educational level.

2. Background

Smoking is one of the most important health-related risk factors and leads to high numbers of avoidable deaths and diseases. It is the major cause of lung cancer, plays a role in the development of other kinds of cancer and increases the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Smoking habits taken at young age are more difficult to quit, and lead to more years lived with tobacco.

Reducing tobacco smoking is a priority target for health policy. The Belgian Federal Minister of Health aims to decrease the prevalence of adult daily smokers to 17% in 2018 [1].

3. Distribution of smokers

In 2013, 23% of the population aged 15 years or older were current smokers; 19% were daily smokers while 4% were occasional smokers. The proportion of heavy smokers in the population was 7%. The trends seem encouraging, considering the relative decrease of 23%, 27% and 30% in the proportion of current, daily and heavy smokers, respectively, over the last 16 years.

Type of smokers in the population aged 15 or more, Belgium, 1997-2013
Source: Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 1997-2013 [2]

4. Prevalence of daily smokers

The prevalence of daily smokers was 18.9% in Belgium in 2013. It is higher in men (21.6%) than in women (16.4%). The age-adjusted prevalence of daily smokers is higher in Wallonia (21.5%) than in Flanders (17.7%) and Brussels (18.3%), and this is true for both sexes. The prevalence has decreased by 27% since 1997, with a greater decline among men than women. It has decreased in all regions and both sexes, except among women in Wallonia.

  • Men
  • Women

Prevalence of daily smokers in men aged 15 or older, by region and for Belgium, 1997-2013
Source: Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 1997-2013 [2]

Prevalence of daily smokers in women aged 15 or older, by region and for Belgium, 1997-2013
Source: Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 1997-2013 [2]

Daily smokers among youngsters

Among young people (aged 15-24), the prevalence of daily smoking, while slightly lower than in the older age groups, still reached 17% in 2013. Since 1997, the number of daily smokers among young people has decreased by a third. Young men used to smoke more than young women in 1997, but their smoking habit decreased over time, while it remained stable for women, resulting in a slightly higher prevalence of daily smokers among young women in 2013.

Prevalence of daily smokers among individuals aged 15-24 by sex, Belgium, 1997-2013
Source: Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 1997-2013 [2]

Daily smokers by educational level

People with the lowest educational level are 2.5 times more likely to be daily smokers than people with the highest educational level, after adjusting for age. The prevalence of daily smokers decreased in people with a high educational level, but remained stable in all other educational levels.

Prevalence of daily smokers by educational level, Belgium, 1997-2013
Source: Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 1997-2013 [2]

International comparison

The prevalence of daily smokers in Belgium was similar to the EU-15 average in 2014.

  • Men
  • Women

Prevalence of daily smokers among men, by country (EU-15), 2014 or nearest year
Source: OECD Health Data, 2014 or nearest year [3]

Prevalence of daily smokers among women, by country (EU-15), 2014 or nearest year
Source: OECD Health Data, 2014 or nearest year [3]

5. Read more

View the metadata for this indicator

HISIA: Interactive Analysis of the Belgian Health Interview Survey

Definitions

Current smokers
Current smokers are people who currently smoke, including daily and occasional smokers.
EU-15
The EU-15 corresponds to all countries that belonged to the European Union between 1995 and 2004: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. We compare the Belgian health status to that of the EU-15 because these countries have similar socioeconomic conditions.
Heavy smokers
Heavy smokers are people who smoke 20 or more cigarettes per day.
Prevalence of daily smokers
The prevalence of daily smokers is the percentage of the population aged 15 years and over that smokes every day.

References

  1. Anti-smoking policy plan, Belgian Federal Minister of Health, 2016. http://www.maggiedeblock.be/2016/04/09/anti-rook-beleidsplan-met-rookverbod-in-wagen-met-kinderen-en-accijnsverhoging/
  2. Health Interview Survey, Sciensano, 1997-2013. https://his.wiv-isp.be/fr/Documents%20partages/TA_FR_2013.pdf
  3. OECD Health Data, 2014 or nearest year. http://stats.oecd.org/