Bulgaria has the second-highest percentage of smokers in the European Union, 36 per cent, while the average Bulgarian smoker puffs away just less than 16 cigarettes a day.
Bulgaria is second only to Greece, which the March 2017 poll found to have 37 per cent as the proportion of people who smoke.
This is according to a Eurobarometer survey released by the European Commission on the eve of May 31, World No-Tobacco Day.
Bulgaria also has the second-largest proportion of ex-smokers in the EU, at 11 per cent, with Portugal the lowest at seven per cent.
The survey found that the proportion of Bulgarians who smoke was largely unchanged in the March 2017 survey from the proportion in 2006.
Across the EU, just more than a quarter of those polled, 26 per cent, were smokers. This number remains unchanged from 2014. Twenty per cent were former smokers. Just more than half, 53 per cent had never smoked.
The survey also found that in the age bracket 15 to 24, the proportion of smokers had increased since 2014, from 24 per cent to 29 per cent.
There are important differences in consumption across the EU with persistently higher rates of smoking in Southern Europe.
More than a third of respondents in Greece (37 per cent), Bulgaria (36 per cent), France (36 per cent) and Croatia (35 per cent) are smokers.
On the other hand, the proportion of smokers is seven per cent in Sweden and 17 per cent in the UK .
There are significant and persistent differences in the prevalence of smoking, with the highest rates observed in Greece (37 per cent), Bulgaria (36 per cent), France (36 per cent) and Croatia (35 per cent) with over a third saying that they currently smoke.
In all but six EU countries, at least a fifth (20 per cent) of respondents are smokers.
The lowest proportions are found in Sweden (seven per cent) and the United Kingdom (17 per cent). It is worth noting however that 23 per cent of the respondents in Sweden use oral tobacco at least monthly. These patterns regarding prevalence are very similar to those observed in the previous surveys, Eurobarometer found.
As in the previous survey, ex-smokers are most prevalent in the EU countries of northern Europe.
In the Netherlands (32 per cent) and Denmark (33 per cent), about a third of respondents used to smoke but have now stopped, while in Sweden over four in 10 (41 per cent) of those polled are former smokers, an increase of six percentage points since the December 2014 survey.
In several countries of southern Europe and central and eastern Europe, the proportion of ex-smokersis less than a fifth (20 per cent) of those polled. This proportion is particularly low in Bulgaria (13 per cent), Italy, Hungary, Portugal and Romania (all 14 per cent).
Overall, 24 per cent of people in the EU can be considered daily smokers. This proportion rises to at least a third in some southern European countries (36 per cent in Bulgaria, 35 per cent in Greece and 33 per cent in Croatia), as well as in France (33 per cent).
Conversely, respondents in most northern European countries are among the least likely to smoke tobacco products daily. This is particularly the case in Sweden (five per cent), but also in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark (all 16 per cent), Belgium (17 per cent) and Finland (18 per cent).
Men (30 per cent) are more likely to smoke than women (22 per cent), as are those aged between 15 and 24 (29 per cent) compared with those aged 55 or more (18 per cent).
Overall, 17 per cent of respondents in the EU used to be daily smokers and have since quit. The proportions reflect similar patterns for ex-smokers overall, with the largest shares observed in Northern European countries: Sweden (30 per cent), Denmark (26 per cent), the Netherlands (25 per cent), Finland (23 per cent), as well as in Spain (21 per cent).
With some exceptions, Southern European countries tend to have the lowest proportions of ex-daily smokers. This is particularly the case in Portugal (seven per cent), but also in Bulgaria (11 per cent), Romania, Lithuania (both 12 per cent), Hungary, Italy (both 13 per cent) and Slovakia (14 per cent).
Although the proportion of Europeans smoking remains stable (26 per cent), they are slightly less likely to do so daily (91 per cent, – 3 percentage points since 2014).
The average daily smoker in the 28 EU countries consumes 14.1 cigarettes a day, down from an average of 14.7 in 2014. Currently, the average in Bulgaria of cigarettes used by a smoker each day is 15.9.
Slim cigarettes are particularly popular in Bulgaria (27 per cent), Lithuania (26 per cent) and Latvia (23 per cent), but in most countries less than 10 per cent of regular smokers smoke these cigarettes.
Most former smokers quit the habit in middle age: either between the ages of 25 and 39 (38 per cent) or between the ages of 40 and 54 (30 per cent).
More than half (52 per cent) of those who currently smoke have attempted to give up smoking, with people in Northern Europe more likely to try quitting than their Southern European counterparts.
The majority (75 per cent) of those who have tried or managed to stop did not use aids to give up smoking, but at the country level this varies from 60 per cent of respondents in the United Kingdom to 90 per cent in Spain.
Tobacco consumption remains the largest avoidable health risk in the European Union, and is responsible for 700 000 deaths each year.
About 50 per cent of smokers die prematurely, resulting in the loss of an average of 14 years of life. In addition, smokers are also more likely to suffer a range of illnesses because of their tobacco use, including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, the European Commission said.
The European Union and its Member States have been working to reduce the use of tobacco through a range of measures, including regulating tobacco products, restricting the advertising of tobacco products, implementing smoke-free environments and running anti-smoking campaigns.
Some of the most recent initiatives include the revised Tobacco Products Directive, which became applicable in the EU countries on May 20 2016. The directive mandates a range of measures including prominent pictorial health warnings on packets of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco, as well as a ban on cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco with characterising flavours.
The aim of the Tobacco Products Directive is to facilitate the functioning of the internal market while protecting public health and, in particular, to protect the public from the harmful effects of tobacco consumption, as well as assisting smokers to give up, and discouraging people from taking up tobacco use in the first place, the European Commission said.
(Photo: Zsuzsanna Kilian)