The number of adult smokers in the UK is now at its lowest level since 1947 when official smoking figures started to be recorded. Figures just released and covering 2013 show that 18.7% of the adult population smoked in 2013 compared to 19.8% of the adult population who smoked in 2012.
Figures supplied by the tobacco industry and relating to 1947 reveal that well over fifty percent of adults smoked at that time. By the mid-fifties smoking amongst men peaked at around sixty five percent, while the peak amongst women smokers of fifty two percent came later at the end of the sixties.
Are E Cigarettes Accelerating the Decline of Smoking
Figures from the National Office of Statistics show that women are still less likely to smoke compared to men, 16.5% of women smoked in 2013, 21.1% of men smoked in 2013. 33% of the UK adult population is classified as ex-smokers, while 49% have never at any time smoked.
Women giving up smoking made up for much of the decline, while there was little real change in the overall figures for men, and worryingly there was even a slight increase in the number of men from sixteen to twenty four years old who smoke. The figures also showed that you are more likely to smoke if you are unemployed, have no qualifications or have a manual occupation. And you are twice as likely to smoke if you are not married.
Although the report did not go in to the subject of smokers switching to ecigarettes and if this had any impact on the figures, there must be some correlation. During 2013 over 2 million people were using ecigarettes, how many of these had switched from tobacco? It’s impossible to say for sure, but obvious that there would have been some effect as the number of people who gave up smoking in 2013 is very similar to the number of people who started using electronic cigarettes in 2013.
Health Ministers were quick to celebrate the figures, while statisticians were not so convinced and urged caution, suggesting that the figures had been collected using a different process to that used in previous years. For instance the latest report uses experimental statistics that are based on the responses of 269,000 adults during an earlier household survey.
A further general lifestyle report survey should provide greater detail when it is released in December, including statistics relating to the prevalence of smoking in sixteen to eighteen year olds. This particular survey in earlier editions has suggested that smoking decline in 16 to 18 year olds has stalled and 20% stubbornly refuse to quit, a figure that has remained constant since 2010.
E Cigarette Gateway Theory Unfounded
The health charity ASH joined health ministers in welcoming the figures. Interestingly they highlighted that the data showed the fears surrounding the use of ecigarettes leading to people starting to smoke were completely unfounded.
Overall the only significant statistical drop in the figures reported were in England, here the percentage of smokers fell to 18.4% from 19.5% the previous year. This is good news as the Department of Health appears to have met the 20.2% baseline UK figure set for 2015 already. The figure for Scotland and Wales is 21.1% and 19.8% for Northern Ireland.
Smoking levels remain higher in Northern England than in other areas:
- North East 22.3%
- North West 20.1%
- Yorkshire and Humberside 20.3%
- East Midlands 19.1%
- West Midlands 17.8%
- East of England 17.5%
- London 17.3%
- South East 17.2%
- South West 17.3%
The health secretary, Jerry Hunt proclaimed that the number of smokers is now lower than it has ever been, and added that you are never too old to quit.
The ASH chief executive, Deborah Arnott said: the Government’s plan for tobacco control is working, the decline proves this, however hundreds of children start smoking every week and tens of thousands of adults still die because of smoking every year. To further drive the decline new tougher measures are required, for instance plain packaging, the Government should not allow parliament to waste important time by debating and voting on this much needed regulation, it’s time to end the glamourising of smoking with glitzy packaging.
She also said: The rapid increase in the use of ecigarettes has coincided with the steady, but consistent decline in smokers. Fears that ecigarettes would re-normalise smoking appear to be have been unfounded.
ASH estimates that ecigarettes are now used by 2.1 million people here in the UK and they are all but for a very small percentage of 0.14% ex-smokers.
Professor in health and wellbeing, Kevin Fenton said: with ecigarettes now being used by around 10%-15% of the people who smoke and rising, it is important that an effective but also balanced form of regulation is introduced. This would maximise the potential of e cig products while also managing any possible risks. E-cigarettes are helping to reduce a habit that kills thousands each year and should be encouraged while being regulated.
The British Lung Foundations chief executive, Dr Penny Wood said: the steady decline we are experiencing in the number of smokers in the UK since 1974 can be attributed to the effectiveness of combined awareness raising and legislation. However, she was also concerned about the rise in smoking amongst young men.
Jane Ellison the Government’s public health minister said: this new data is further evidence that smoking is in decline to the point where less people than ever now smoke. The target for lowering smoking rates in the UK has been achieved two years earlier than anticipated, and we believe that the first generation to be smoke free could now be within our lifetimes.
Whats Our opinion at Escape Ecigarettes
It’s great news, the fewer people that smoke, the fewer people that will die because of it. However, we still feel that ecigarettes have not been given as much credit as they deserve by some health professionals and Government departments.
Our biggest fear is that over regulation will lead to a fall in the number of people who use ecigarettes, which in turn would lead to people going back to smoking, leading to a reverse in the recent smoking rate decline.