Number of UK smokers still declining

The latest figures on adult smoking habits in the UK have been released by the Office for National Statistics, and it’s good news: the number of smokers is now the lowest since 2010.

Produced in partnership with Public Health England, the report shows 15.8 percent of the UK population smoked in 2016 – that’s around 7.6 million people. It also shows that more smokers are quitting the habit, with 60.6 percent of those aged 16 and older who had ever smoked cigarettes having given up.

Here are some of the other facts uncovered by the report:

  • In the UK, 17.7 percent of men are smokers compared with 14.1 percent of women.
  • Among current smokers, men smoke 12 cigarettes a day on average compared with 11 a day for women.
  • Smoking statistics are highest in Northern Ireland, where 18.1 percent of adults smoke (for Scotland this figure is 17.7 percent, Wales 16.9 percent and England 15.5 percent).
  • Since 2010, 6.5 percent fewer young people aged 18 – 24 are smoking, which is the largest decline in smoking prevalence among all ages (though people in this age group are still the second most likely to smoke after those aged 25 – 34).

The survey also discovered that, in Great Britain, 5.6 percent of people aged 16 and older said they were currently using e-cigarettes during 2016, which is around 2.9 million people. More men were e-cigarette users than women (6.3 percent compared with 4.9 percent).

In the same year 18.6 percent of people said they’d tried e-cigarettes, and 13.4 said they have used e-cigarettes but no longer use them. Again men were more likely to have tried e-cigarettes or had been e-cigarette users.

The most common reason for using an e-cigarette was as an aid to stop smoking, with the second most common reason being that e-cigarettes are perceived as less harmful than cigarettes.

Smoking prevention plans

Despite the drop in number of smokers, the report confirms smoking is still a leading cause of preventable death in this country. In 2015, around 79,000 people died because of conditions attributable to smoking in England. There were also 13,500 smoking-related deaths that year in Scotland, 5,500 in Wales and 2.300 in Northern Ireland.

To reduce these numbers even further, the government is supporting plans for further tobacco control, which include the following:

  • Stopping the promotion of tobacco
  • Making tobacco less affordable
  • Regulating tobacco products more effectively
  • Helping smokers to quit
  • Reducing exposure to secondhand smoke

How to get help

If you’ve decided to quit smoking, there are lots of ways to get help. For instance, your GP can enrol you in a stop smoking clinic and prescribe stop smoking aids that help with nicotine withdrawal, including patches, gum, lozenges, spray as well as stop smoking medication.

Many Careway pharmacies also offer effective stop smoking services that, according to the NHS, could make you four times more likely to quit successfully. Just ask your local Careway pharmacist for details – find your nearest pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.

Get more advice about quitting at NHS Smokefree.