Health Survey for England

Posted 13th December 2019 by Dave Cross
“There is a consensus that e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco cigarettes, since e-cigarettes contain no tobacco and thus no tar, with some estimating them to be around 95% safer, although the longer-term effects of e-cigarettes have not been established,” quotes The Health Survey for England (HSE) as it details current trends in smoking.

The HSE monitors trends in the nation’s health and care. It provides information about adults aged 16 and over, and children aged 0 to 15, living in private households in England. The survey consists of an interview, followed by a visit from a nurse who takes some measurements and blood and saliva samples. Adults and children aged 13 to 15 were interviewed in person, and parents of children aged 0 to 12 answered on behalf of their children for many topics. Children aged 8 to 15 filled in a self-completion booklet about their drinking and smoking behaviour.

The HSE document says “The World Health Organisation Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2017 stated that tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in England and worldwide [link],” and that “tobacco use contributed to around 20% of deaths in men and 12% of deaths in women aged over 35 in England in 2017 [link].”

It notes that the government aims to reduce the proportion of adults smoking to 12% or less by the end of 2022. As part of the HSE monitoring process, adults have been asked questions about their use of electronic cigarettes since 2013.

The report states that current smoking among adults has steadily declined from 27% in 1993 to 17% in 2018. The proportion of adults that have never regularly smoked cigarettes increased from 46% to 58% over the same period.

Vaping: 6% of all adults were current users of e-cigarettes; 8% of men and 5% of women. 18% of current cigarette smokers were current e-cigarette users, and 36% had never used e-cigarettes. Nearly all (95%) of adults that have never regularly smoked cigarettes have also never used e-cigarettes.


The proportion of children aged 8 to 15 who had ever smoked has decreased, from 19% in 1997 to 4% in 2018. In 2018, 9% of children aged 13 to 15 had ever tried smoking, compared to 1% of those aged 11 to 12 and 0.1% of those aged 8 to 10.

Estimates of e-cigarette use in children based on data from 2017 and 2018 combined: 7% of 8 to 15 year olds had used an e-cigarette. This increased with age, from less than 1% of 8 to 10 year olds to 2% of 11 to 12 year olds and 15% of 13 to 15 year olds. It does not detail smoking status prior to trying vaping.

“We welcome the survey results that smoking in children and young people has declined,” Hannah Walsh, a spokesperson for the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry, said. “The evidence that smoking damages oral health is well established. We see it as an important part of our role to give smoking cessation advice. Where a young person is evidently a smoker, I will signpost them to the right service to get the help they need to stop smoking. The scale of the drop in the number of children smoking highlighted in this survey can only be welcome.”


  • Health Survey for England – [link]
  • Public Health England. E-cigarettes: an evidence update, 2015 – [link]

Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, salad destroyer and live culture convert.