Smokers smoke for 24 years on average

One third of the Dutch population aged 12 years and older smoked in 2001. They smoked an average 12 cigarettes a day. Of the two thirds of the population who didn’t smoke, nearly half had smoked at some time.


Although more men than women smoke there is no difference in smoking behaviour between the sexes. Both men and women smoke an average 12 cigarettes a day. Three out of ten male and female smokers are heavy smokers: they smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day. Men and women who smoke do so for an average 24 years.

First cigarette by age, 2001

Starting to smoke

Current smokers and ex-smokers aged 18 years and older smoked their first cigarette at an average age of 17. If we look at the starting ages in more detail, there is a noticeable acceleration in the early teens. Seven percent started at the age of 11 or 12 years. At ages 13 and 14 years the percentage of boys and girls who smoked their first cigarette was already three times as high.

Men start younger

Men start smoking at a younger age than women. Men smoked their first cigarette at an average age of 16.5 years, women at 17.5 years.

There are also differences in starting age by level of education. People with a college or university degrees, and those with only primary education start at an average age of 18 years. All intermediate levels start at around 16.5 years.

Giving up

Four out of ten non-smokers used to smoke. Half of non-smoking men and four out of ten non-smoking women smoked at some time. Men who give up smoking smoke for an average 20 years before quitting, and stop when they are 36. Women who quit smoke for an average 15 years and stop when they are 33 on average. Ex-smokers gave up 16 years ago on average.

Ferdy Otten