UK smoker numbers fall by 2 million

 

Since the smoking ban the number of British smokers has dropped by nearly 2 million.

Ten years after cigarettes were banished from all UK pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants, new figures from Cancer Research UK today  reveal there are 1.9 million* fewer smokers in Britain compared to when the smoking ban was introduced in 2007, with smoking rates now the lowest ever recorded.

Smokefree laws have had one of the biggest impacts on public health over the last decade. The drop in smokers means there are now around 8,300,000 adult smokers in Britain.

Importantly, over this decade of clean air in pubs, the proportion of 16 to 24 year olds who smoke has fallen to 17% from 26 per cent in 2007 – a record low. The drop in this age group is bigger than in any other.

England was the last of the four UK nations to go smokefree, in July 2007. Scotland was first in March 2006, followed by Wales then Northern Ireland, both in April 2006.

A new poll** for Cancer Research UK of more than 4,300 people also revealed that very few people want to turn back the clock and allow smoking in enclosed public spaces. Only 12% were in favour of reversing the smokefree laws.

Most people feel the smoking ban has been positive, with only eight per cent who think this change has made no difference to them or to public spaces.

The most commonly identified benefit was that people’s clothes do not smell of smoke after a night out (67 per cent), followed by restaurants and pubs are now more family-friendly (66 per cent).

Almost six in 10 (57 per cent) agree that the health of hospitality workers has improved, and almost four in 10 (38 per cent) say their own health has also benefited from the reduced exposure to second hand smoke.

20% of smokers said the ban had helped them cut down the number of cigarettes they smoke, and an impressive 14% of ex-smokers credit the ban with helping them quit altogether.

Almost four in 10 (38%) people across the UK believe that the ban has also helped protect the next generation from taking up smoking.

In addition to the smokefree laws, other measures have been introduced to help reduce smoking over the last ten years. This includes increased taxes, putting tobacco out of sight in shops, getting rid of cigarette vending machines and most recently plain, standardised tobacco packaging.

But even with the fall in smoking rates, tobacco continues to devastate millions of lives. Continued effort is needed as smoking rates will not come down on their own.

Cancer Research UK is calling on the government to publish a tobacco control plan without further delay, to help maintain the progress in reducing smoking rates. Only by building on the success of the ban will the UK reach the goal of reducing smoking to five per cent across all socioeconomic groups by 2035.

Julie Griggs, 51 from Hertfordshire gave up smoking five years ago with the help of her local Stop Smoking Services.

The mum-of-two said: “I think the ban made it a lot easier for me to give up. There was less social pressure to smoke and people weren’t watching me and waiting for me to light up anymore. My local Stop Smoking Service offered me great support too and I’ve not had a cigarette since 21 May 2012 – something I thought I would never manage.

“By not smoking I know I am giving myself the best chance of being here for my children for as long as possible. It’s great waking up feeling energetic and healthy, and not having the smell of smoke around me.  It’s a relief to be free from starting the day wanting a cigarette.”

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “We’re thrilled that 10 years on, the smoking ban has been such an enormous success.

“Cancer Research UK worked incredibly hard for many years to ensure that the law would be effective and that no one would be exposed to toxic second-hand smoke. The impact on public health is huge. It’s rewarding to know that this effort will go on to have a great impact on the health of future generations.

“As well as protecting people from the deadly effects of passive smoking, we’ve also seen big changes in public attitudes towards smoking. It’s now far less socially acceptable and we hope this means fewer young people will fall into such a potentially lethal addiction. But the job is far from done when we still have more than eight million smokers in Britain and tens of thousands of children taking up the deadly addiction every year***. We need this government to continue focussing on tobacco and we urge it to publish the Tobacco Control Plan for England as soon as possible.”

To add your voice to Cancer Research UK’s call for the government to publish the tobacco control plan for England as soon as possible, go to www.cruk.org/dontquitonus

You can see the cancer UK Press Release in full here.

Statistics and background information

* Calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK, 2017. In 2016 there were an estimated 8.3 million current adult cigarette smokers in Great Britain.

In 2007 there were an estimated 10.2 million current adult cigarette smokers in Great Britain, a difference of 1.9 million.

Please note these figures may not sum up due to rounding

Proportion of current cigarette smokers, adult persons (16+), Great Britain, 2007-2016

Year Smoking prevalence (%)
2007 20.9%
2008 21.1%
2009 21.0%
2010 20.3%
2011 19.8%
2012 20.4%
2013 19.2%
2014 18.8%
2015 17.8%
2016 16.1%

 

Proportion of current cigarette smokers, adult persons, by age groups, UK, 2007 & 2016:


*Calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK 2017. Number of current cigarette smokers in Great Britain in 2007 and 2016 was calculated by applying proportion of current adult cigarette smokers to mid-year population estimates. Calculations were made for age groups 16-24, 25-34, 35-49, 50-59, 60+, for males and females separately, then summed for each year. 1.9 million is the difference between the totals in 2007 of an estimated 10.2 million smokers and in 2016 of an estimated 8.3 million smokers. Please note these calculations do not take population changes into account so the growth in population size has offset the fall in smoking prevalence to an extent. Please also note the figures may not sum up due to rounding. Sources: Office for National Statistics. Smoking habits for adults in Great Britain and mid-year population estimates in Great Britain 2007 and 2016:

 
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