State of Smoking in the United Kingdom | Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

state of smoking and health in the United Kingdom

This page was last edited on: February 9, 2024 at 1:14 pm

smoking rate (2022)

Tobacco Use and Trends

  • In 2022, 6.4 million adults aged 18 years old and older are smokers in the UK[1]. This is the lowest proportion of current smokers since 2011.

  • Smoking prevalence is marginally higher among men (14.6% – around 3.6 million) versus women (11.2%-around 2.8 million).

    • Wales has the highest prevalence of cigarette smokers (14.1%) around 340 thousand people), while England has the lowest  (12.7%) around 5.3 million people. The prevalence in  Northern Ireland is 14% (around 200 thousand) and Scotland is 13.9% (around 590 thousand people).  (Figure 1)
  • As the smoking prevalence is continued to be highest among those between 25 to 34 years old, the largest reduction occur among those age 18-24 years old between 2011 and 2022 (Figure 2).

Source: Annual Population Survey from the Office for National Statistics ONS, 2022 – last accessed in January 4, 2024)

  • In 2022, 70% female and 68.9% male smokers have quit smoking.
    • 27.2% of people use a vaping product in their attempt to quit smoking in the previous 12 months as compared with 15.5% who used NRT.

  • Demand for cigarettes fell by 54.3% between 2010 from 38.3 packs/capita and 2022 to 17 packs/capita.

Proportion of current smokers, all persons aged 16 years and over UK 1974 - 2017

Source: ONS, 2020

Nicotine Alternatives

  • Daily e-cigarette use has increased to 5.2% among 16 years old and older population, compared with 3.8% in 2020.
  • Prevalence of daily e-cigarette use is higher among men (6%) as compared with women (4.4%), and among those aged 25-34 years old (6.8%) while it is the lowest in those aged 60 and over (2.9%). Figure 3.
  • Among ex- and current smokers, 13.5% and 12.2% are daily e-cigarette smokers in 2022. (Graph 1)
  • In 2020, 27.2% of adults used vaping products in a quit attempt in the previous 12 months, compared to 15.5% using NRT.

Smoking status of e-cigarette users in UK 2022

12.2%

Cigarette Smokers

13.5%

Ex-Smokers

0.6%

Never Smoked

Source: Office of National Statistics (Last accessed in January 4, 2024)

HEALTH AND ECONOMIC BURDEN FROM TOBACCO USE

  • In 2019, it is estimated that tobacco is the 1st highest risk factor that drive the most death and disability combined in United Kingdom.
  • Tobacco is estimated to account for more than 125 thousand deaths. Smoking accounts for of 120 thousand deaths, secondhand smoke for 8 thousand deaths, and chewing tobacco for 38 deaths.

  • Ischemic heart disease (IHD), Stroke, COPD and Lung Cancer are the top 4 causes of deaths respectively where:
  • Tobacco use causes an estimated loss of 9 millions disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) – 34% of total DALYs where tobacco accounts for loss of 397 thousanf DALYs for IHD, 580 thousand DALYs for tracheal/bronchus/lung cancer,  545 thousand DALYs for COPD and 133 thousand DALYs for Stroke.

regulatory environment & economics

Public Health Commitment
Diverse Tobacco Market
  • HTPs and e-cigarettes with or without nicotine are legally available in the UK. HTPs are classified as hand-roll tobacco (HRT).

  • E-cigarettes are not categorized as tobacco products but are subject to regulations. Product restrictions for e-cigarettes include a maximum nicotine concentration of 20mg/ml, a tank capacity not exceeding 2ml, and refill containers irrespective of nicotine content limited to a maximum of 10ml.

  • Text health warnings, covering 30% of both package surfaces are required for HTPs as of 2023. PP regulation does not apply to HTPs and e-cigarettes.
Taxation Policy
  • In 2022, the total tax rate on retail prices of a pack of cigarettes was 83.7%

  • HTPs are subject to a specific excise tax of £93/kg, while no tax is imposed on e-cigs as of 2023.

  • A differential excise tax policy is applied between CCs and HTPs. The excise value for HTPs is GBP1.85/pack with a share (36.96%) of the retail selling price of GBP 5.00/pack while the excise value for CCs is GBP8.00/pack with its share (62.73%) of the retail selling price GBP12.75/pack as of 2023.
Smoking and Advertising Bans
  • Comprehensive smoking and advertising bans with complete compliance on smoking bans and moderate compliance on advertising bans were enforced on CCs in 2022. E-cigs are not subject to smoking and advertising bans. While HTPs are not subject to smoking ban regulations like CCs, they are under strict advertisement regulations. 
Illicit Cigarette Trade
  • Estimated figures indicate that the illicit trade had a high market share with 15.7% in 2008, falling to 10.3% in 2016 and consistently remaining less than 15% throughout with 14.6% in 2022.

[1] The data of UK comprises four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

infographic with the following statistics There are 7 million adult tobacco product users in the UK. Tobacco use prevalence is marginally higher among men (14.6%) than women (11.2%). The Smoking Rate is 12.9%.

As research findings become available that are inclusive of additional gender identities, the Foundation will update the information presented. 

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