Letters Smoking cessation

Smoking prevalence in England is below 20% for the first time in 80 years

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g1378 (Published 11 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1378
  1. Jamie Brown, senior research fellow1,
  2. Robert West, professor of health psychology1
  1. 1University College London, London WC1E 7HB, UK
  1. jamie.brown{at}ucl.ac.uk

We would like to expand on the “who smokes” section of Zwar and Mendelsohn’s timely clinical review of smoking cessation by sharing the latest findings of a large national surveillance study, which has been tracking smoking prevalence in England since 2006.1 2 Each month a new sample of about 1800 people aged ≥16 years is selected by random location sampling to complete a computer assisted household survey with a trained interviewer. Prevalence data are weighted to match English census data on age, sex, and socioeconomic group. The resulting sample is nationally representative in its sociodemographic composition and proportion of smokers as compared with other large national surveys, such as Health Survey for England.2 An advantage of this study is that the data are available within weeks of collection and published online (www.smokinginengland.info).

For the first time in probably 80 years, smoking prevalence in England has fallen below 20%. In 2013, 22 167 adults were surveyed. The prevalence of cigarette smoking was 19.3% (95% CI 18.8% to 19.8%). Smoking was rare at the start of the 20th century but increased relentlessly until the publication of “Smoking and Health” in 1962, by which time over 70% of men and 40% of women smoked.3

The decline in prevalence started in the 1970s and has since averaged 0.6% a year; in 2013 it was slightly higher, at 0.8% (www.smokinginengland.info). Much is still to be done, particularly on the social gradient in smoking, which contributes greatly to health inequalities.4 However, we hope that breaking the 20% barrier will motivate smoking cessation efforts across the country, including making more use of our stop smoking services.5


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1378


  • Competing interests: JB’s post is funded by a fellowship from the UK Society for the Study of Addiction and RW is funded by Cancer Research UK; Cancer Research UK, the Department of Health, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Johnson and Johnson (J&J) have all funded data collection for the Smoking Toolkit Study; JB has received an unrestricted research grant from Pfizer; RW undertakes research and consultancy and receives fees for speaking from companies that develop and manufacture smoking cessation aids (Pfizer, J&J, McNeil, GSK, Nabi, Novartis, and Sanofi-Aventis) and he has a share of a patent for a novel nicotine delivery device.

  • Full response at: www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.f7535/rr/683849.