Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

10 things we know about smoking today

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New ONS report shows that smoking levels are steady but who smokes most and least?

Adult smoking habits in Great Britain

A recent (18 February 2016) report from the Office for National Statistics highlights some of the characteristics of adult (16 years old and over) smokers in 2014 — the latest available data.
The percentage of current smokers in Great Britain has remained at 19% compared with 2013, but the percentage of male smokers has reached its lowest ever level since records began. Average daily cigarette consumption has also reached its lowest level. The percentage of people using e-cigarettes is 4%. Women are slightly more likely to be e-cigarette users than men. The main reason given for using e-cigarettes was to aid in quitting smoking.

10 things you (probably) didn’t know about current smoking trends

  1. 19% of adults in Great Britain currently smoke, down from a peak of 46% in 1974 when the series began. Among smokers, the average consumption was 11.4 cigarettes a day – the lowest daily cigarette consumption since the series began, the peak being in 1976 at 16.8 cigarettes a day.
  2. 20% of men currently smoke – the lowest value since the series began in the 1970s. In 1974, half (51%) of men smoked.
  3. 17% of women smoke – a slight increase on the previous year. The peak for women was in 1974 at 41%.
  4. Those aged 25 to 34 are the most likely to smoke but smoke the lowest amount per day at 9.6 cigarettes while smokers aged 50 to 59 smoke the most at 13.4 cigarettes a day.

smoking by age and sex

5. In 2014, 55% of people who had previously smoked had quit.

6. 23% of those with personal annual income up to £9,999 are current smokers, compared with 11% of those whose annual income is £40,000 or more.

7. Just over 1 in 10 babies were born to mothers who smoke.

8. There are an estimated 2.2 million current e-cigarette users in Great Britain, 4% of the population.

9. 74% of former e-cigarette users smoke cigarettes.

10. 53% of e-cigarettes users vape as an aid to quit smoking.


On the whole this is pretty good news, especially if we look at European smoking levels (please don’t mention the Brexit word if you comment below).

WHO 2014 data shows that the average number of cigarettes consumed per year by a UK adult is 750 which compares very favourably with:

  • Greece                     2996 cigarettes per adult per year
  • Russia                     2786 cigarettes per adult per year
  • Spain                      17576 cigarettes per adult per year
  • Switzerland           1722 cigarettes per adult per year
  • Italy                        1475 cigarettes per adult per year
  • Germany               1045 cigarettes per adult per year
  • France                    854 cigarettes per adult per year

We also compare well against the USA whose average is 1028.


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