Cigarette smoking habits among adults in the UK, including the proportion of people who smoke, demographic breakdowns, changes over time and use of e-cigarettes.

1.Main points

  • In the UK, in 2019, 14.1% of people aged 18 years and above smoked cigarettes, which equates to around 6.9 million people in the population, based on our estimate from the Annual Population Survey (APS).
  • The proportion of current smokers in the UK has fallen significantly from 14.7% in 2018 to 14.1% in 2019.
  • Of the constituent countries, 13.9% of adults in England smoked, 15.5% of adults in Wales, 15.4% of adults in Scotland and 15.6% of adults in Northern Ireland.
  • In the UK, 15.9% of men smoked compared with 12.5% of women.
  • Those aged 25 to 34 years had the highest proportion of current smokers (19.0%).
  • In the UK, around 1 in 4 (23.4%) people in routine and manual occupations smoked, this is around 2.5 times higher than people in managerial and professional occupations (9.3%).
  • In Great Britain, more than half (52.7%) of people aged 16 years and above who currently smoked said they wanted to quit, and 62.5% of those who have ever smoked said they had quit, based on our estimates from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN).
  • In Great Britain, 5.7% of respondents in 2019 said they currently used an e-cigarette, which equates to nearly 3 million adults in the population.

2.Collaboration

Public Health England

This publication is produced in partnership with Public Health England.

As part of a cross-government approach to improve the coherence of statistics on tobacco and e-cigarette use, this release is published on the same day as Public Health England’s update to their Local Tobacco Control Profiles. The Local Tobacco Control Profiles include new smoking prevalence data for 2019 including the gap between smoking prevalence in routine and manual and other occupations; updated data for lung, oral and oesophageal cancer registrations; and updated data for smoking-related fires and fatalities caused by them.

3.The proportion who are current smokers in the UK, its consistent countries and local areas, 2011 to 2019

In Sections 3 and 4, we describe data from the Annual Population Survey (APS); these cover the UK and include adults aged 18 years and above.

The proportion of current smokers in the UK has fallen significantly since 2018 to 14.1%

In 2019, the proportion of current smokers in the UK was 14.1%, which equates to around 6.9 million in the population. The latest figure represents a significant reduction in the proportion of current smokers since 2018, when 14.7% smoked, and continues the trend in falling smoking prevalence since 2011.

Official smoking prevalence estimates for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland should be taken from devolved health or national surveys – see Section 10.

Of the constituent countries, Northern Ireland had the highest proportion of current smokers (15.6%, around 215,000 people). Similar to previous years, England continued to have the smallest proportion of current smokers (13.9%, around 5.7 million people). In Wales and Scotland, the proportion of current smokers was 15.5% (around 372,000 people) and 15.4% (around 638,000 people), respectively. Since 2011, there has been a statistically significant decline in the proportion of current smokers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For Northern Ireland, the estimate over time has been more variable because of the smaller sample size.

As in previous years, in 2019 more men smoked than women in the UK. Within all constituent countries of the UK, 15.9% of men (around 3.8 million) and 12.5% of women (around 3.1 million) reported being current smokers.

Since 2011, the largest fall in smoking prevalence has been among 18- to 24-year-olds

Those aged 25 to 34 years continued to have the highest proportion of current smokers (19.0%, around 1.6 million people), when compared with any other age group, and those aged 65 years and above continued to have the lowest proportion of current smokers (7.8%, around 904,000 people). Across time, the largest reduction in smoking prevalence has been among 18- to 24-year-olds; 25.7% of this group smoked in 2011 compared with 16.0% in 2019, a reduction of almost 10 percentage points (see Figure 2).

6.The use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), Great Britain

E-cigarettes are increasingly being used by smokers to help quit smoking. In a recent evidence review, Public Health England found that vaping poses a small fraction of the risk of smoking and that when e-cigarettes are used as part of a quit attempt, success rates are comparable with or higher than licensed medication alone. Welsh Government have also reported that the most common reason for using e-cigarettes was to help stop smoking tobacco (76% of current users).

There are approximately 3 million vapers in Great Britain

In 2019, 5.7% of survey respondents reported that they currently used an e-cigarette (vaped); this equates to almost 3 million vapers in the population of Great Britain. This proportion is significantly higher than that observed in 2014, when data collection began, when only 3.7% vaped. In 2019, changes in proportions of those who said they vaped were not statistically significantly different from the previous year.

Although a higher proportion of men reported vaping (6.1%) than women (5.4%) in 2019, this is the first year since data collection began in 2014 that there has been a decline in the proportion of male vapers (down from 7.7% in 2018) – this was not a statistically significant difference. By age, those aged 25 to 34 years had the highest proportion of vapers, at 9.2%.

Half of vapers use their e-cigarette as a means to stop smoking

In 2019, the proportion of vapers was highest among current cigarette smokers (15.5%) and ex-cigarette smokers (11.7%). Only 0.4% of people who have never smoked reported that they currently vape.

The most common reason given for vaping was as an aid to stop smoking, with approximately half (50.6%) of vapers reporting using e-cigarettes for that purpose in 2019.

Read full report here.

Office For National Statistics – July 7, 2020.

 

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