Two decades after governments began campaigning against tobacco in earnest, a third of EU nationals - 29% - still light up, according to the results of Eurobarometer survey released Thursday.
That finding was marginally better than that of a similar 2006 survey that found 32% of Europeans to be regular smokers.
"Despite the progress achieved, around a third of Europeans continue to smoke," the latest Eurobarometer survey concluded.
It said 28% of smokers in the EU have tried to kick the habit in the past year and almost half of them "have tried to do so on more than one occasion."
Southern Europeans avid smokers
Southern Europeans are the most avid smokers: more than 40% of Greeks and Cypriots light up routinely, followed by Bulgarians (39%), Hungarians (38%), Turks and Macedonians (both 37%).
The latest survey, carried out in October 2009, questioned more than 30,000 Europeans on their attitudes toward smoking.
Health topped the reasons-for-quitting list, followed by peer pressure and the cost of cigarettes. The survey found damage done to the health of non-smokers - the main reason for smoking to be banned in public places -ranked only fourth in importance to would-be quitters.
In the past 20 years, EU governments have steadily increased their anti-tobacco campaigns. These have led to advertising bans and dire warnings on tobacco packaging of death and impotence alongside graphic images of diseased lungs.
An estimated 650,000 people die each year from smoking-related illnesses in the 27-nation EU. Still, the latest Eurobarometer survey found that health warnings are a factor in quitting for only 14% of regular smokers. It also found that:
75% of EU nationals think putting scary pictures on tobacco products is good
two-thirds think tobacco companies should pay a fee to offset health costs related to tobacco use
55% believe tobacco products should be kept out of sight at sales points
52 percent want to ban on cigarette machines.
- (Sapa, May 2010)