White People are Drug Addicts

I thought this graph I made in Gapminder‘s software was interesting. It’s the percentage of adults who smoke vs. the number of liters of alcohol consumed per person per year. (The alcohol figures include both legal sales and estimated consumption outside of lawful purchases).

(click to enlarge)

The first thing that jumped out at me was that, of the countries that have both high rates of alcohol consumption (10+ liters per person per year) and a high rate of smoking (more than 30% of the population), all of them are in Europe. I’ve added thick grey lines to indicate this region. Not all European countries fall inside it: Bosnia & Herzegovina drinks a little less, per capita, than necessary. And the people of Ireland and Slovenia don’t smoke enough to qualify. But all of the countries that fall inside this hard-drinking/heavy-smoking region are European.

Another thing that struck me was how segregated the graph is by region of the world:

  • European countries (in orange) drink and smoke a lot. (Unsurprisingly, Turkey, a liberal but largely Muslim country, smoke as much as Poland, but drinks the same as many other Muslim countries.) Greeks and Russians smoke like wet wood and Czechs have livers made of steel.
  • Asian countries (in red) tend to smoke quite a bit, but drink less than average
  • South Asians (in light blue), drink and smoke even less than other Asians
  • Middle Eastern countries (in green), not surprisingly, tend to smoke and drink even less than South Asians
  • Africans (in dark blue), smoke the least, but have a rather wide range of alcohol consumption habits. (I suspect that the rate of alcohol consumption is related to the percentage of people in each of these countries who are Muslim, but I don’t have the data handy to show this, yet.)

One country which has a very high rate of alcohol consumption but low rate of cigarette smoking is Nigeria. This didn’t surprise me much, since I had already heard that Nigeria is one of the world’s largest (per capita) consumers of Guinness beer.

What did surprise me, though, is how far Cameroon is behind Nigeria. Both Nigeria and Cameroon have similar per-capita incomes (on a PPP-basis) and Nigeria is 50/50 Christian and Muslim while the split in Cameroon is more like 70/20. If I were an investor in Africa, I would look into what was causing this difference, since these figures seem to indicate that the people of Cameroon are able to increase their alcohol consumption by up to 50%.

The place I’d least like to hold a party? Eritrea.

The US and other North and South American countries, which are made up of people of Native origin, European background, African, Asian and Middle Eastern heritage, turn out to be right in the middle of the graph, along with Palau (a former US trusteeship), Australia, Sweden and Namibia.


  1. Brian

    Eritrea is less desirable place to live than is North Korea, and that’s not hyperbole.

  1. 1 Don’t look now honey but I think the internet just ate our economy. « excapite

    […] still he then ploughs his way through the data to discover that compared to the rest of the world it’s the white people of Europe who are the drug addicts (Alcohol and Tobacco). Again who would have guessed? Would the Wisdom of the Crowds picked either one of these two […]

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