• • • • • • • Number of adult smokers Measuring smoking rates Cigarette smoking and age Number of secondary school children who smoke Cigarette smoking and socio-economic group Tobacco consumption Dependence on smoking
who smokes and how much
Number The highest recorded level of smoking among men in Great Britain was of adult 82% in 1948, of which 65% smoked manufactured cigarettes. At that time, smokers significant numbers of men smoked pipes or cigars as well as, or instead
of, manufactured cigarettes. By contrast, women have tended to smoke only cigarettes. Smoking prevalence among women in 1948 was 41% and remained fairly constant until the early 1970’s, peaking at 45% in the mid 1960’s.1 Overall prevalence among adults (aged 16 and over) fell steadily between the mid 1970s and early 1980s. After 1982, the rate of decline slowed, with prevalence falling to about one percentage point every two years until the early 1990’s when it levelled out. Since 2000 overall adult smoking rates had been declining by around 0.4% per annum.2 Between 2007 and 2009, overall smoking prevalence among adults in Great Britain remained the same at 21%, dropping to 20% in 2011 (21% of men and 19% of women).
ASH Fact Sheet on: Smoking statistics
Planned review date: March 2014
There are about 10 million adult cigarette smokers in Great Britain and about the same number of ex-smokers. Since 1990 there has been a steady increase in the number of smokers using mainly hand-rolled tobacco. In 1990, 18% of male smokers and 2% of female smokers said they smoked mainly hand-rolled cigarettes but by 2011 this had risen to 40% and 26% respectively.
Measuring smoking rates
Periodically the Government sets targets to reduce smoking prevalence in the population. In the 1998 White Paper ‘Smoking kills’ the Government set a target to reduce adult smoking rates to 21% or less by 2010, with a reduction in prevalence among routine and manual groups to 26% or less.3 The latest national survey shows that the target for the general population has been achieved but not that for lower socio-economic groups (28% in 2011). In its strategy paper launched on 1 February 2010 the Labour Government set new targets to reduce smoking among the general population to 10% of adults and to 1% or less among children by 2020.4 In March 2011 the Coalition Government launched its Tobacco Control Plan for England in which it set out ambitions to reduce adult smoking prevalence to 18.5% or less by 2015 and to reduce smoking among young people to 12% or less by 2015.5
Cigarette smoking and age
Smoking prevalence is highest in the 20-24 age group among both women (28%) and men (30%). Between 2010 and 2011, smoking among men in this age group increased from 25% to 30%, while in other age groups the rate fell or remained the same for both men and women. Smoking continues to be lowest among people aged 60 and over. Although they are more likely than younger people to have ever been smokers, they are more likely to have stopped smoking. Cigarette smoking by age – percentage of adult population Age % 16-19 20-24 25-34 35-49 50-59 60+ 1978 34 44 45 45 45 30 1988 26 37 36 36 33 23 1998 31 40 35 31 28 16 2008 22 30 27 24 22 13 2009 24 26 25 25 21 14 2010 19 27 26 24 20 13 2011 18 29 23 24 19 13
Number of secondary school children in England who smoke
Very few children are smokers when they start secondary school: among 11 year olds only 1% are regular smokers. The likelihood of smoking increases with age so that by 15 years of age 11% of pupils are regular smokers. Overall, the prevalence of regular smoking among children aged 11-15 remained stable at between 9 and 11 per cent from 1998 until 2006. However, in 2007 there was a fall in overall prevalence from 9% to 6%, the lowest rate recorded since surveys of pupils’ smoking began in 1982. The downward trend has continued: in 2011 overall prevalence was 5% and among 15 year olds it fell to 11%.6 For further information see ASH Fact Sheet on Young People and smoking (pdf).
2 ASH Fact Sheet on: Smoking statistics
Percentage of pupils aged 15 who are regular smokers (at least one cigarette per week on average) England 1982 1986 1990 1994 1998 2002 2006 2010 2011 Boys 24 18 25 26 19 20 16 10 11 Girls 25 27 25 30 29 26 24 14 11 All 25 22 25 28 23 23 20 12 11
Cigarette smoking and socio-economic group
There is a strong link between cigarette smoking and socio-economic group. In 2011, 29% of men and 26% of women in routine and manual occupations smoked compared to 14% of men and 12% of women in managerial and professional occupations. Prevalence of cigarette smoking by socio-economic classification based on current or last job of the household reference person Men 11 12 15 19 23 25 30 33 Women 9 9 14 18 21 22 26 29 Total 10 10 14 18 22 24 28 31
Persons aged 16 and over. Great Britain: 2011 (%)
Large employers and higher managerial Higher professional Lower managerial and professional Intermediate Small employers / own account Lower supervisory and technical Semi-routine Routine
Historically there has been a slower decline in smoking among manual groups, resulting in smoking becoming increasingly concentrated in this population. In recent years, smoking rates have fallen by a similar amount across all social groups, so that the differential between non-manual and manual has not changed significantly. As in previous Government Health Surveys, the 2011 data revealed an association between socio-economic group and the age at which people started to smoke. Of those in the managerial and professional households, 31% had started smoking before they were 16, compared with 45% of those in routine and manual households. For more information, see ASH Fact Sheet: Young People and Smoking (pdf).
Consumption of manufactured cigarettes among adult male smokers rose from 14 per day in 1948 to 19 per day in 1955, and remained at about this level until 1970 when there was an increase to 22 per day by 1973. Among female smokers, consumption rose steadily from 7 cigarettes per day in 1949 to a maximum of 17 per day in 1976. Since the mid 1970s cigarette consumption has fallen among both men and women. The overall reported number of cigarettes smoked per male and female smoker has changed little since the mid 1980s, averaging 13 cigarettes per smoker per day. As in previous years, men smoked slightly more per day on average than women and there was an association between consumption and socio-economic group. In 2011, smokers in manual occupations smoked an average of 14 cigarettes a day compared with 11 a day for those in managerial or professional groups.
3 ASH Fact Sheet on: Smoking statistics
Daily consumption of manufactured cigarettes per smoker, 1949-20111, 3 Year 1949 1959 1969 1979 1990 2000 2010 2011 Men 14.1 18.4 18.9 21.6 16.8 15 14 13 Women 6.8 11.0 13.7 16.6 13.9 13 12 12
Dependence on cigarette smoking First cigarette of the day
In 2011, 63% of smokers said they would like to stop smoking altogether. Other ways of measuring dependence include how difficult people would find it to go for a whole day without smoking and how soon they smoke after waking. In 2011, 16% of all smokers had their first cigarette within 5 minutes of waking. Among smokers of 20 or more cigarettes a day, 35% smoked their first cigarette of the day within 5 minutes of waking, compared to just 3% of those smoking fewer than 10 a day. In 2011, 60% of smokers said they would find it hard to go for a whole day without smoking. Eighty-one per cent of heavier smokers (20 or more a day) said they would find it difficult, compared to 32% of those smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes per day. Proportion of smokers who would find it difficult to go without smoking for a day by sex and number of cigarettes smoked per day Great Britain 2011 No of cigarettes Men % Women % All smokers % 20 or more 79 84 81 10-19 64 73 69 0-9 32 32 32 All smokers 58 61 60
Managing without a cigarette for the whole day
Unless otherwise stated, information is taken from: The 2011 General Lifestyle Survey. Office for National Statistics, March 2013. Wald, N. and Nicolaides-Bouman, A. UK Smoking Statistics. 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, 1991 2 Jarvis, M. Monitoring cigarette smoking prevalence in Britain in a timely fashion. Addiction 2003; 98: 1569-1574 3 PSA Delivery Agreement 18: Promote better health and well-being for all. The Treasury, Oct 2007 (pdf) 4 A Smokefree Future. A comprehensive tobacco control strategy for England. Department of Health, 2010. 5 Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England. HM Government, March 2011 6 Smoking drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2011 Information Centre for Health and Social Care, 2011. 1