Research News

Smoking prevalence falls among adults in England

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 19 June 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2953
  1. Susan Mayor
  1. London

The proportion of people in England aged over 18 who smoke decreased from 19.9% in 2010 to 15.5% in 2016, figures from NHS Digital show.1

The figures, collected from a range of sources, showed that the prevalence of smoking had fallen in all age groups but that the greatest reduction was among younger adults aged 18-24, down from 26% in 2010 to 19% in 2016.

Rates of smoking remained higher in men (19%) than in women (14%). And unemployed people were nearly twice as likely to smoke as those with jobs (30% v 16%).

The number of women smoking during pregnancy continued to decline. Just under 11% of women were recorded as smokers at the time of delivery in 2016-17, compared with 15% in 2006-07.

The report estimates that 2.4 million people used e-cigarettes in 2016. Their use among people aged 16-24 increased from 2% in 2015 to 6% in 2016. The most common reason given for using e-cigarettes was to help stop smoking (46%), and 27% of users perceived them to be less harmful than cigarettes.

Less than a fifth (18%) of secondary school pupils in 2014 taking part in a regular survey of young people reported that they had tried smoking at least once. This is the lowest figure since the survey began in 1982, when the prevalence was over 50%.

Use of e-cigarettes was more common, as 22% of children at secondary school said that they had tried them at least once. This increased to 35% in 15 year olds.

In contrast, new figures from the US show that e-cigarette use among teenagers has decreased sharply. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual report on youth and tobacco found that 11.3% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2015, down from 16% the year before.2 In the latest figures only 8% of high school students reported that they had smoked cigarettes.


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