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Smoking rates fall 1% in past year

18.7% of adults in UK now smoke, says ONS

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 07 October 2014

Numbers of people who smoke in the UK have fallen by 1.1% in the past year taking the national average to 18.7%, according to new figures published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS’s Integrated Household Survey, which is an annual survey that includes a number of questions on health behaviour and attitudes, showed a falling trend for smoking.

Results showed that the only statistically significant change was in adult smoking in England, which fell from 19.5% in 2012 to 18.4% in 2013.

This means the government has achieved its ambition which was to reduce overall adult smoking to 18.5% by 2015 from a baseline of 21.2% in 2009-10, as set out in The Tobacco Control plan for England, which aimed to have 210,000 fewer smokers a year.

The tobacco control plan included several policies such as:

  • making smoking less affordable by increasing tobacco tax and tackling smuggling
  • stopping the promotion of tobacco (for example at the point of sale)
  • supporting smokers to quit smoking
  • implementing effective regulation of tobacco products
  • reducing exposure to secondhand smoke
  • protecting tobacco control from vested interests of the tobacco industry.

The ONS figures showed there were regional differences in rates of smoking prevalence found in 2013 and of the constituent countries of the UK, Scotland reported the highest proportion of current smokers (21.1%), while England had the lowest proportion (18.4%).

At regional level, there appeared to be a north/south divide with smoking prevalence in London (17.3%), the south east (17.2%) and the south west (17.3%) being significantly lower than that in the north east (22.3%), the north west (20.1%)  and Yorkshire and The Humber (20.3%).

The charity ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) said the fall in smoking showed tobacco control measures were working.

Deborah Arnott, ASH chief executive, said: “However, over 80,000 people still die from smoking every year in England and every week hundreds of children take up smoking.

“Tough new measures to regulate tobacco, like plain standardised packaging, are needed if we are to drive down smoking still further. We urge the government to waste no time in allowing parliament to vote on the regulations which will finally get rid of glitzy, glamorous cigarette packs forever.”

ASH had estimated that the proportion of smokers using electronic cigarettes in Great Britain rose from 7% in 2012 to 11% in 2013.

“The drop in smoking also shows that concerns that the use of electronic cigarettes would lead to a re-normalisation of tobacco use appear unfounded,” added Ms Arnott. “The rapid increase in use of these products has coincided with a consistent steady decline in smoking.”

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