Top 5 Countries With Worst Records

Top 5 Countries With Worst Records

1. Austria, Most Smokers

As most people know by this point, smoking is essentially an expensive cancer lottery. But apparently, Austria didn’t get the memo, since it holds the record for the highest proportion of smokers—around 36.3 percent of the population. With over a third of Austrians regularly lighting up, the wealthy European nation can claim the highest smoking rate in the world. An estimated 60 percent of the 20–50 age group—some 2.5 million people—admitted to smoking regularly or semi-regularly in 2010. And things don’t seem to be improving much—41 percent of the 15–20 age group are also regular smokers, while a further 8 percent admitted to sneaking the occasional cigarette. The country’s nicotine fixation has created friction with its neighbors. In 2009, Austria belatedly enforced an EU anti-smoking directive requiring large restaurants and bars to set aside at least 50 percent of their seating area for non-smokers. The move caused widespread outrage, with many business owners saying they would openly flout the law for fear of losing their customers. In 2010, only 19 percent of Austrians said they would support a full ban on smoking in restaurants and other enclosed spaces, leaving the country’s 3.5 million smokers free to continue their habit for the foreseeable future.

2. Belarus, heaviest Drinkers

Alcoholism is heartbreaking on an individual level but things can get even worse when a whole country seems to have a drinking problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average Belarusian consumes 17.5 liters (3.9 gal) of pure alcohol every year, almost three times the global average of 6.2 liters (1.4 gal). If that doesn’t sound bad enough, the average Belarusian male consumes 27.5 liters (6 gal) per year. Of the country’s total alcohol consumption, spirits accounted for 46.6 percent, while beer and wine made up a further 22.5 percent.

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A disturbingly high 30.9 percent of alcohol consumed was simply listed as “other”—probably referring to the discount fruit wines and homemade vodka beloved by the nation’s 170,000 recorded alcoholics.

Belarus’s government has disputed the WHO report, claiming that the actual figures are much lower. But the government itself came in for criticism when it emerged that the lower average they provided included young children and newborn infants, who tend not to be heavy drinkers.

Thankfully, the government has instituted a strong anti-alcohol program, including heavy fines for drunk driving and a ban on homemade fruit wines. There are even plans to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21. Drink prices have also risen considerably, with the cost of vodka doubling over the last few years. However, liquor seems to be ingrained in the culture of Eastern Europe—according to the WHO report, the top five alcohol-consuming nations all hail from the region.

3. South Korea, Most Cosmetic Surgery

In a world where looks are seemingly everything, it’s not surprising that some people feel enormous pressure to conform to society’s standard of beauty—even if that means undergoing expensive, painful, and potentially dangerous surgery. Things are particularly bad in South Korea, where plastic surgery is practically an everyday occurrence. An estimated one out of every five South Korean women has had some cosmetic work, four times higher than the rate among American women. The country’s plastic surgeons have developed an international reputation—around 7.5 million people have traveled to Seoul to have work done, including many members of the Korean diaspora.

Why does South Korea have such an obsession with surgery? No one really knows, although anecdotal evidence suggests that Korean women feel heavily judged on their looks. Popular surgeries include procedures to enlarge eyes and reshape noses and jaws. As one plastic surgery patient told ABC News: “I think everyone is trying to delete this Koreanness. In Korea, you go down the streets, you see this girl. And you walk down the street, and you see that girl again. It actually is a different person.”

4: Germany, Most Prostitutes in Europe

Since it legalized prostitution in 2002, the country has been referred to as a giant “sex supermarket,” with one Floridian flying there at least three times a year to take advantage of the discount prices. There are an estimated 500 brothels in Berlin alone, with over 3,000 in the country as a whole, and the industry reputedly generates around $20 billion a year.

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As you would expect, Germany’s prostitution boom has a tragic dark side. Many foreign-born sex workers were trafficked into the country with promises of work, before being forced into the industry. Brothel owners take the lion’s share of the profits, with many workers paid a pittance. By some estimates, as many as 90 percent of the country’s prostitutes may have been forced into an industry they would have preferred to avoid. As one Member of Parliament observed: “At the time it was thought that legalizing prostitution would improve their situation. But that totally failed. We now see that meaning well does not mean doing well.”

5: Bangladesh, Highest Human Trafficking Rate

Human trafficking is a truly horrible crime, and yet it is more common than you might think. Each year at least 600,000–800,000 people are trafficked over international borders—and some reports estimate the real number to be much, much higher. The victims are forced into indentured servitude, with over half believed to have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Despite the best efforts of global law enforcement, the trade is almost certainly growing.

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