Limited data on smoking prevalence allowing valid between-country comparison are available in Europe. The aim of this study is to provide data on smoking prevalence and its determinants in 18 European countries. In 2010, within the Pricing Policies And Control of Tobacco in Europe (PPACTE) project, we conducted a face-to-face survey on smoking in 18 European countries (Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, England, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden) on a total of 18 056 participants, representative for each country of the population aged 15 years or older. Overall, 27.2% of the participants were current smokers (30.6% of men and 24.1% of women). Smoking prevalence was highest in Bulgaria (40.9%) and Greece (38.9%) and lowest in Italy (22.0%) and Sweden (16.3%). Smoking prevalence ranged between 15.7% (Sweden) and 44.3% (Bulgaria) for men and between 11.6% (Albania) and 38.1% (Ireland) for women. Multivariate analysis showed a significant inverse trend between smoking prevalence and the level of education in both sexes. Male-to-female smoking prevalence ratios ranged from 0.85 in Spain to 3.47 in Albania and current-to-ex prevalence ratios ranged from 0.68 in Sweden to 4.28 in Albania. There are considerable differences across Europe in smoking prevalence, and male-to-female and current-to-ex smoking prevalence ratios. Eastern European countries, lower income countries and those with less advanced tobacco control policies have less favourable smoking patterns and are at an earlier stage of the tobacco epidemic.