Smoking rates in the UK hit record low

Cancer Research UK

Smoking levels in the UK are the lowest since records began, according to new data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). 

In 2015, 17.2% of UK adults smoked, down from 20.1% who smoked in 2010. Of all adults who had previously smoked, 56.7% had quit – the highest proportion since 1974.

“Cuts to public health budgets puts at risk the support smokers need to help break their addiction and successfully quit”George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK

On average smokers consume just over 11 cigarettes each day, also the lowest level since 1974.

George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager, welcomed “the fantastic progress that’s been made in the UK over the last few decades”. 

However he cautioned that millions of people in the UK continue to smoke, and the progress that has been made in tobacco control hasn’t happened on its own.

Cancer Research UK estimates that these figures mean there were 8,800,000 adult smokers in the UK in 2015. 

“Cuts to public health budgets puts at risk the support smokers need to help break their addiction and successfully quit,” said Butterworth. “It’s essential the Government finds sustainable funding for Stop Smoking Services and mass media quit campaigns, and publishes the Tobacco Control Strategy for England without further delay.”

While smoking rates have fallen across different groups of people in the UK, there are differences in levels of smoking between the nations, age groups and genders. 

Smoking rates are lowest in England (16.9%) and highest in Scotland (19.1%), with those aged 65 years and above least likely to smoke.

The figures show that men (19.3%) are still more likely to smoke than women (15.3%), and smoking is more common in deprived groups and those looking for work. 

"The smoking ban, increased taxes, putting tobacco out of sight in shops and getting rid of cigarette vending machines have all helped to change attitudes and smoking rates,” added Butterworth. “A continued effort is vital.