Smoking declines again in Belgium: Which region smokes the most?

Smoking declines again in Belgium: Which region smokes the most?
Credit: Irina Iriser / Pexels

The number of smokers in Belgium decreased for the second year in a row from 2021 to 2022, Belga News Agency has reported.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Foundation Against Cancer (la Fondation contre le cancer), 24% of Belgians reported smoking daily or occasionally last year, compared to 29% in 2020 and 27% in 2021. The 2022 figure remains slightly higher than that recorded in 2019 (23%).

Men registered a notable decline in tobacco use (from 31% in 2021 to 26% in 2022), although they continue to smoke more frequently than women (23%).

Smoking was also more far common in Brussels (36%) than in Flanders (21%) and Wallonia (27%), and is particularly prevalent among poorer Belgians (29%).

'New measures will be necessary'

Promisingly, almost two-thirds (62%) of Belgian smokers indicated that they intend to kick the habit within the next six months. Less promisingly, however, a much smaller (21%) proportion stated that they would undertake serious efforts to do so within that period.

It is this latter figure, in particular, which has led the the Foundation to claim that "new measures will be necessary" to help people to quit smoking.

"General practitioners and hospitals often fail to motivate smokers enough to quit smoking permanently or to seek help from a tobacco specialist," the Foundation Against Cancer's report reads. "With additional support, they could focus more on this point."

According to Suzanne Gabriëls, an expert in tobacco control at the Foundation Against Cancer, this additional support should include financial assistance appropriated by the Belgian State from the tobacco companies themselves — a policy which, in fact, is supported by the overwhelming majority (71%) of Belgians.

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"The ideal solution could take the form of an interregional agreement between the federated entities competent for smoking cessation assistance," Gabriëls told 7sur7. "This additional offer of support for withdrawal would be financed by a new contribution from cigarette manufacturers who should be required to disburse the necessary funds."

According to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) most recent figures, 22.3% of the world's population are regular smokers, including 36.7% of men and 7.8% of women. It notes that smoking kills more than 8 million people every year, including 1.2 million non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke, and that tobacco causally contributes to the death of "up to half" of its users.

In Belgium, 14,000 deaths every year are directly attributable to tobacco use.

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