And the World’s Top Smokers Are…

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A man smokes a cigarette on Sept. 11, 2012 in Indonesia, where two out of three men smoke.

Is it getting hard to breathe in here?

According to a new survey, Indonesian men smoke more than anyone else in the world. Nearly 70% of of all Indonesian males over age 15 light up cigarettes, a slight increase from 67% last year and a big jump from roughly 54% in 1995. Meanwhile, the overall rate of tobacco use among Indonesia’s adult population hit 35% — right behind Russia, which has the world’s highest overall smoking rate of 39%.

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More than 8,000 people were questioned for the “Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS): Indonesia Report 2011”, part of a series of surveys taken in 15 countries with heavy tobacco use. Indonesian Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi reportedly said the government was embarrassed to hear of the findings. “We have failed in protecting our people,” she said. “We have been defeated by the tobacco industry… we don’t want this, we cannot accept this because our job is to protect people from cigarettes.”

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Cigarettes are relatively cheap in Indonesia, and tobacco taxes run less than 40%, according to the Associated Press — about average for the region. Thanks to the powerful tobacco lobby, giant outdoor cigarette advertisements — banned in many other countries — still remain prevalent throughout Indonesia. The Southeast Asian nation, also the world’s fifth-largest cigarette-producing market, is among a handful of countries that have failed to sign the World Health Organization’s 2005 tobacco treaty.

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