One in five Maltese smokes daily, Eurostat finds

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Almost one in five Maltese persons smoked daily, a Eurostat study has found. The prevalence of Maltese smokers is slightly above the European Union average. In 2019, 18.4% of the EU population aged 15 years or more reported that they were daily cigarette smokers. In fact, 12.6% of the EU population consumed fewer than 20 cigarettes per day, while 5.9% consumed 20 or more cigarettes on a daily basis. 12.9% of Maltese respondents who said they smoked daily consumed less than 20 cigarettes daily, while 6.6% exceeded that number.

These results come at a crucial juncture for the European Parliament’s efforts to strengthen its fight against tobacco use. In a report by the EP’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer presented earlier this Summer, MEPs acknowledged that tobacco use, in particular cigarette smoking, is by far the largest preventable cause of cancer in the EU, as the cause of 15-20 % of European cancer cases and the main risk factor for cancer death in Europe (27 % of cancer fatalities equalling 700 000 cancer deaths annually in the EU).

The report, drafted by Véronique Trillet-Lenoir strongly supports the goal of a ‘tobacco-free generation’, as set out in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, where less than 5 % of the population uses tobacco by 2040, compared to around 25 % today.

Across the EU Member States, the countries with the largest shares of daily cigarette smokers were Bulgaria (28.7%), Greece (23.6%), Latvia (22.1%), Germany (21.9%) and Croatia (21.8%). In contrast, the countries with the smallest shares of daily smokers were Sweden (6.4%), Finland (9.9%), Luxembourg (10.5%), Portugal (11.5%) and Denmark (11.7%).

The proportion of smokers who consumed 20 cigarettes or more per day ranged between 1.0% in Sweden and 12.9% in Bulgaria. At the same time, the share of smokers who consumed fewer than 20 cigarettes varied between 5.3% in Sweden and 15.8% in Bulgaria. In 2019, there were more smokers among the male population than the female population: 22.3% of men aged 15 years old and over were daily cigarette smokers, compared with 14.8% of women.

At country level, the proportion of men who smoked daily ranged from a low of 5.9% in Sweden to a high of 37.6% in Bulgaria. For women, this ranged between 6.8% in Sweden and 20.7% in Bulgaria. In all EU Member States, the proportion of daily cigarette smokers was higher among men than among women, apart from in Sweden and Denmark. In Sweden, the share of men who smoked daily was 0.9 percentage points (pp) less than the share of daily female smokers, while in Denmark the proportion of male smokers who smoked daily was 0.1 pp less than the share of daily female smokers.

The Special Committee on Beating Cancer is backing EC proposals to increase the minimum excise duties for all tobacco products, which could result in a reduction in tobacco use, notably among young people, the introduction of a requirement for plain packaging and the obligation to include health warnings on 80 % of the front and back of cigarette packaging and a ban on flavourings in all tobacco products to reduce the appeal of these products to non-smokers and young people. The Committee has also pushed for an authorisation for Member States to introduce a ban on plastic cigarette filters on health and environmental grounds.

Hundreds of amendments presented to the report will be discussed in next BECA meeting on 8 November 2021, with a vote in committee is scheduled to take place on 6 December 2021.

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