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Tobacco statistics

Tobacco use statistics by country in the UK, age and trends over time are presented here. These data are collected annually in the four constituent countries of the UK, from representative population samples. There are also data on socio-economic variation, ethnicity, geographic variation, and second-hand smoke. Statistics on childhood smoking are also available.

The latest tobacco use statistics available for the UK are 2012.

Smoking and cancer

Tobacco use is associated with increased risk of several cancers, including lung, larynx, oesophagus, oral cavity and pharynx, bladder, pancreas, kidney, liver, stomach, bowel, cervix, leukaemia, and ovarian cancers.

Incidence of some smoking-related cancers is decreasing thanks largely to decreases in smoking prevalence, these include lung cancer (decreasing in males), oesophageal cancer (decreasing in females), and laryngeal cancer. However, unless there is further progress in reducing tobacco exposure, these decreases are expected to slow and eventually stop.1

Tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death in the world.2 Tobacco smoking caused an estimated 101,000 deaths in the UK in 2010 - almost a fifth (18%) of all deaths from all causes.3 It caused an estimated 43,000 cancer deaths in the UK in 2010 - more than a quarter (27%) of all cancer deaths.2 Tobacco (both active smoking and environmental tobacco smoke) causes an estimated 64,300 cancer cases in the UK each year - almost a fifth (19%) of all cancer cases.1

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By country in the UK

Around 1 in 5 UK adults currently smokes cigarettes (2012) (Table 1.1).4 This equates to an estimated 10.2 million UK adult cigarette smokers.

Cigarette smoking prevalence is higher in Scotland (compared with all other UK constituent countries) and Wales (compared with England and Northern Ireland).

Table 1.1: Cigarette Smoking Prevalence, Adults Aged 18 and Over, Countries of the UK, 2012

  England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland United Kingdom
Males 22.1 22.1 24.8 20.6 22.3
Females 17.1 19.4 20.3 16.7 17.4
Persons 19.5 20.7 22.5 18.6 19.8

 

This is self-reported cigarette smoking data, which may underestimate true prevalence by around 3% in England.5

Our Local Cancer Statistics page provides smoking prevalence information for your area.

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By age

Cigarette smoking prevalence among adults (aged 18 and over) in the UK decreases with age (Figure 1.1).4

Figure 1.1: Cigarette Smoking Prevalence, by Age, UK, 2012

smoking_prevalence_age.swf

Download this chart XLS (86KB) PPT (175KB) PDF (33KB)

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Trends over time

Cigarette smoking prevalence among adults (aged 16 and over) in Great Britain has decreased since the early 1970s (Figure 1.2).6,7 The sex gap in cigarette smoking prevalence has narrowed in recent years.6,7

Figure 1.2: Cigarette Smoking Prevalence, Adults aged 16 and Over, Great Britain, 1974-2012

Smoking_trend_1974_mf.swf

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Smoking prevalence among adults (aged 16 and over) in Great Britain also decreased between 1948 and the early 1970s (Figure 1.3).6-8 Smoking rates were extremely high at the start of this period, particularly when including all smoked tobacco products (not just manufactured cigarettes) - around 8 in 10 men smoked in 1948.

Figure 1.3: Smoking Prevalence, Adults aged 16 and Over, Great Britain 1948-2012

Smoking_trend_1948_mf.swf

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Data for use of all tobacco products in females is not available, but very few women smoke(d) products other than cigarettes.

The average number of cigarettes smoked per day among adult (aged 16 and over) current smokers in Great Britain also decreased between 1974 and 2012, from 18 to 12 in males, and from 13 to 11 in females.6

Cigarette smoking prevalence has decreased for all of the broad adult age groups in Great Britain since the early 1970s (Figures 1.4 and 1.5).6,7 The decrease has generally been slower in younger age groups.

Figure 1.4: Cigarette Smoking Prevalence, by Age, Males, Great Britain, 1974-2012

smoking_trends_male.swf

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Figure 1.5: Cigarette Smoking Prevalence, by Age, Females, Great Britain, 1974-2012

smoking_trends_female.swf

Download this chart XLS (104KB) PPT (187KB) PDF (44KB)

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By socio-economic variation

Cigarette smoking prevalence is higher in more deprived areas of England compared with less deprived areas (Figure 1.6).9 Smoking underpins socio-economic variation in incidence and mortality for a number of cancer types.

Figure 1.6: Cigarette Smoking Prevalence, by Area Deprivation, Adults Aged 18 and Over, England, 2012

smoking_deprivation.swf

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Adults in routine and manual occupation households (where household reference person's last job was routine or manual) start smoking at a younger age, compared with adults in managerial and professional occupation households.7

Socio-economic variation in cigarette smoking prevalence has widened over time, perhaps relating to awareness of the dangers of smoking (Figure 1.7).6,10

Figure 1.7: Cigarette Smoking Prevalence, by Socio-Economic Classification, Adults Aged 16 and Over, Great Britain, 2001-2012

smoking_socioeconomic.swf

Download this chart XLS (96KB) PPT (183KB) PDF (40KB)

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By ethnicity

Cigarette smoking prevalence varies by ethnic group (Figure 1.8).11

Figure 1.8: Cigarette Smoking Prevalence, by Ethnic Group, Persons Aged 18 and Over, UK, 2010-2011

smoking_ethnicity.swf

Download this chart XLS (91KB) PPT (177KB) PDF (35KB)

These figures probably underestimate total tobacco use, partly because they are self-reported, but also because non-cigarette tobacco products are used in some ethnic groups. For example in England in 2004, 4% of Bangladeshi adult males and 16% of Bangladeshi adult females used chewing tobacco but did not smoke cigarettes.12

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Worldwide

Worldwide cancer incidence and mortality reflects smoking prevalence, among other factors.

Worldwide 1 billion adults (800 million men and 200 million women) currently smoke cigarettes.2 This is an underestimate of total tobacco exposure worldwide, as it does not include childhood smoking, smokeless tobacco or second-hand smoke.2 Cigarette smoking prevalence varies widely around the world, and over 80% of the world's adult male smokers, and half of the world's adult female smokers, live in low- or middle-income countries.2

Tobacco use kills almost 6 million people worldwide each year, with nearly 80% of these deaths in low- and middle-income countries.2 Each year 600,000 non-smokers worldwide die from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.2 By 2030 tobacco will kill a predicted 8 million people worldwide each year.2 Tobacco use caused 100 million deaths worldwide during the 20th century, and if current trends continue it will kill 1 billion people in the 21st century.2

Worldwide smoking prevalence is overall increasing.2 However, different countries are at different stages of their tobacco epidemic, a model in which smoking prevalence increases, stabilises and eventually decreases, and some decades later the proportion of tobacco-attributable deaths follows a related curve of increase, stability and decrease.13 Low- and middle-income countries are generally in the earlier stages, with smoking prevalence increasing, therefore the proportion of tobacco-attributable deaths in those countries is expected to increase; in contrast most high-income countries are in the later stages, with falling smoking prevalence and stabilising or falling proportion of tobacco-attributable deaths.2

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Second-hand smoke

Second-hand smoke causes an estimated 11,000 or more deaths in the UK each year.14 Around four-fifths of these deaths are due to second-hand smoke at home, with the remainder due to second-hand smoke in the workplace.13

Smokefree legislation ensures that workers and the public (including children) are protected from the harmful health effects of second-hand smoke.

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Smoking cessation

Rates of self-reported successful smoking cessation among NHS Stop Smoking Service users vary by country in the UK (Table 1.2).15-18

Table 1.2: NHS Stop Smoking Service Users Successfully Quit, All Ages, Countries of the UK, 2012/13

  England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland
Percentage of self-reported successful quitters at 4 weeks after agreed quit date 52 58 38 57

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References for tobacco statistics

  1. Parkin DM, Boyd L, Walker LC. 16. The fraction of cancer attributable to lifestyle and environmental factors in the UK in 2010. Br J Cancer 2011;105(S2):S77-S81.
  2. World Lung Foundation/American Cancer Society. The Tobacco Atlas. Available from: http://www.tobaccoatlas.org. Accessed April 2014.
  3. Peto R, Lopez A, Boreham J, et al. Mortality from smoking in developed countries 1950-2010. Available from: https://www.ctsu.ox.ac.uk/research/mega-studies/mortality-from-smoking-in-developed-countries-1950-2010. Accessed April 2014.
  4. Office for National Statistics. Integrated Household Survey, January to December 2012. Available from: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/integrated-household-survey/integrated-household-survey/index.html. Accessed April 2014.
  5. West R, Zatonski W, Przewozniak K, et al. Can we trust national smoking prevalence figures? Discrepancies between biochemically assessed and self-reported smoking rates in three countries. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2007; 16(4): 820-2.
  6. Data for 2012 onwards: Office for National Statistics. Opinions and Lifestyle Survey. Available from: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ghs/opinions-and-lifestyle-survey/index.html. Accessed April 2014.
  7. Data for 1974-2011: Office for National Statistics. General Lifestyle Survey, 2011. Available from: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ghs/general-lifestyle-survey/2011/index.html. Accessed April 2014.
  8. Data for 1948-1973: PN Lee Statistics and Computing Ltd. International Smoking Statistics Web Edition. Available from: http://www.pnlee.co.uk/ISS.htm. Accessed April 2014.
  9. Office for National Statistics. Do Smoking Rates Vary Between More and Less Advantaged Areas?, 2012. Available from: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/disability-and-health-measurement/do-smoking-rates-vary-between-more-and-less-advantaged-areas-/2012/index.html. Accessed April 2014.
  10. Data for 2001-2010: Office for National Statistics. General Lifestyle Survey, 2009 and General Lifestyle Survey, 2010. Available from: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ghs/general-lifestyle-survey/index.html. Accessed April 2014.
  11. Office for National Statistics. Integrated Household Survey, April 2010 to March 2011. Available from: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/integrated-household-survey/integrated-household-survey/index.html. Accessed April 2014.
  12. Health & Social Care Information Centre. Health Survey for England - 2004: Health of ethnic minorities, Headline results. London: HSCIC; 2006.
  13. Thun M, Peto R, Boreham J, Lopez AD. Stages of the cigarette epidemic on entering its second century. Tob Control 2012;21(2):96-101.
  14. Jamrozik K. Estimate of deaths attributable to passive smoking among UK adults: database analysis. BMJ 2005; 330(7495):812.
  15. Health and Social Care Information Centre. Statistics on NHS Stop Smoking Services, England - April 2012 to March 2013. London: HSCIC; 2013.
  16. Stop Smoking Wales. Annual Report 2012-2013. Pontypool: Public Health Wales; 2013.
  17. Information Services Division Scotland. NHS Smoking Cessation Service Statistics (Scotland) 1st January to 31st December 2012. Edinburgh: ISD; 2013.
  18. Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety Northern Ireland. Statistics on Smoking Cessation Services in Northern Ireland: 1 April 2012 – 31 March 2013. Belfast: DHSSPSNI; 2013.
Updated: 23 May 2014