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The number of adult smokers falls to an all-time low in the UK

The number of adult smokers in England has dropped by around 1.6m, the latest Government figures show.

Overall smoking rates for 2017 are at all-time low of 14.9%, down from 19.3% just five years ago. This brings the estimated number of smokers in England in 2017 to 6.1 million, 1.6 million fewer than in 2011.

The Statistics on Smoking, England: 2018 report published by NHS Digital, shows that smoking prevalence in all of the UK was 15.1%.

The report also shows that:

  • There were 484,700 estimated hospital admissions attributable to smoking in 2016/17
  • 40% of hospital admissions for respiratory diseases that can be caused by smoking, were estimated to be attributable to smoking.
  • Just under 11% of pregnant women were known to be smokers at the time of delivery in 2017/18.
  • There were an estimated 77,900 deaths attributable to smoking in 2016, a decrease of 2% on 2015.  For males, this accounted for 20% of all deaths, and for females, 12% of all deaths.
  • Adults aged 25 to 34 were most likely to smoke (20%), whilst those aged 65 and over were least likely to smoke (8%) and 6% of pupils aged between 11 and 15 reported they were current smokers in 2016
  • The number of items dispensed as an aid to stop smoking in England was 0.86 million in 2017/18, compared to 2.56 million in 2010/11
  • Adults aged 25 to 34, and 35 to 49 were most likely to use e-cigarettes
  • The most common reason for adults using e-cigarettes was as an aid to quit smoking (48%)

PCRS-UK Chair Dr Noel Baxter says: This further reduction in tobacco smoking is very good news for population health and we know that fewer smokers will mean a less pressured NHS. Much of the benefit the health system experiences is down to highly effective lobbying for legislation change and Public health prevention interventions. Those of us working in healthcare should not be complacent though as the onus to intervene increasingly sits with us in our clinics and surgeries. However, prescriptions of stop smoking medicines and access to stop smoking specialist behavioural support is falling. At the same time our winter surgeries overflow with adults and children whose respiratory infections and long-term conditions have been worsened by tobacco smoke exposure and opportunities for Very Brief Advice (VBA) are clearly being missed.

PCRS-UK believes supporting patients to quit smoking is the business of every healthcare professional. Use this PCRS-UK resource to help even more patients to quit.



PCRS Produced / Collaboration
Clinical Area: 
Tobacco smoking and nicotine
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