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UK Smoking Rates Down Again!

Office for National Statistics figures reveal, “The end of smoking is finally in sight”.

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New data has been released from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which shows a further drop in the rates of adult British smokers. The decline comes on the back of a record fall last year and has been linked in many quarters to the success enjoyed by 2.9 million vapers switching from tobacco in record numbers.

Over half a million smokers successfully gave up tobacco: 680,000 people stubbed out cigars and cigarettes for the final time. It isn’t just the adults, smoking across all age groups continues to be in decline and the largest drop was with 18-24yr olds. 

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, welcomed the news by saying: “It's now hard to believe that back in 1974 almost half of adults smoked, but now an end really is in sight and we have a real opportunity to virtually eliminate all the harm, misery and death caused by smoking. What is really fantastic news is that this steep decline is even greater among young adults, where smoking has fallen by a staggering quarter since 2010, reversing a long trend.”

When records began, in the mid-70s, men were smoking 18 a day and women averaged 14. Men are now smoking an average of 12 cigarettes a day, women are on 11, but it will be interesting to see how these figures change now that the government have banned packets of ten.

The number of vapers has increased to 2.9million, and the Daily Mail reports: “The majority of users reported taking up the gadgets in an attempt to quit smoking, others due to them being 'less harmful' than actual cigarettes.”

According to The Mirror: “The report also found Barnsley, Sunderland, Blackpool and Hartlepool have the highest estimated hospital admission rates for smoking-related conditions, with each having a rate of more than 3,000 per 100,000 of population. Wokingham and the Isle of Wight had the lowest rates of estimated hospital admission rates with each having a rate of below 1,000 per 100,000.”

It adds: “Manchester had the highest estimated rate of smoking-related deaths with 509 per 100,000 of population. Harrow, Rutland and Wokingham had the lowest rates, all below 200 per 100,000. Across the UK, 5.6% of people - around 2.9 million - used e-cigarettes in 2016.”

Selbie added: “The UK now has the second lowest smoking rates in Europe. However, while there is much to be positive about, large gaps still exist between the richest and poorest areas - with the highest rates over five times greater than the lowest. While these gaps persist there is still much work to be done, but these latest figures give us real hope. It’s now hard to believe that back in 1974 almost half of adults smoked. But now an end really is in sight and we have a real opportunity to virtually eliminate all the harm, misery and death caused by smoking.”

Main points from the ONS survey:

  • In 2016, of all adult survey respondents in the UK, 15.8% smoked which equates to around 7.6 million in the population.
  • Of the constituent countries, 15.5% of adults in England smoked; for Wales, this figure was 16.9%; Scotland, 17.7% and Northern Ireland, 18.1%.
  • In the UK, 17.7% of men were current smokers, which was significantly higher in comparison with 14.1% of women.
  • Those aged 18 to 24 in the UK experienced the largest decline in smoking prevalence of 6.5 percentage points since 2010.
  • Among current smokers in Great Britain, men smoked 12.0 cigarettes each day on average whereas women smoked 11.0 cigarettes each day on average; these are some of the lowest levels observed since 1974.
  • In Great Britain, 5.6% of respondents in 2016 stated they currently used an e-cigarette in 2016, which equates to approximately 2.9 million people in the population.
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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