STATE OF SMOKING IN UK - Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

State of smoking in

The United Kingdom

Member of the

UK Smoking by the Numbers

Smoking Reduction

The adult smoking rate declined from 24% in 2005 to 18.3% in 2014, according to the latest available data.

Tobacco Types

The most common type of tobacco is boxed cigarettes at 47%, followed by hand-rolled cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, pipes, and oral/nasal tobacco.

Tobacco Deaths

The number of tobacco related deaths has decreased from 313 to 145 per 100,000 from 1990 to 2017. With men decreasing 250 to 123 and women 381 to 168.

Breast v Lung Cancer in Women (Deaths, 2017)

Breast: 4.44%, Lung: 5.76%

Media Dialogue

UK media frequently covers regulations created to decrease the number of cigarette smokers in the country, including increased taxes on cigarettes. Coverage also focuses on the increasing use of e-cigarettes and positive public opinion toward these products as potential reduced-risk alternatives.

We have a conducive environment for harm reduction.  The UK has taken a very pragmatic approach to public health issues for a long time, we have a lot of scientists who are led by the evidence and not ideologies, we have good health leaders who are very pro-harm reduction, plus we have vocal elements among consumers.  So, this is an ecosystem with lots of different players all working together to make harm reduction happen.

– Gerry Stimson, honorary professor of sociology, Imperial College of London

Public Smoking


Smoking in work and public places banned.

Point of Sale Displays


Advertising ban.

Branded Packs


Plain packaging required.



Certain smokeless tobacco products are banned, but allows e-cigs and heat not burn products.

Attitudes and Perceptions

How harmful are e-cigs compared to cigarettes?

Perception of relative harm of vaping devices. From the Foundation’s 2017 and 2019 Global Polls, participants were asked, “Do you think smoking e-cigarettes and vaping devices are more or less harmful than smoking regular cigarettes?”

*Data from the 2017 Global Poll


In the UK, 83.7% of nicotine and tobacco product users believe that nicotine is addictive (2019 global poll)


In the UK, 74.9% of e-cigarette users and those aware of e-cigarettes believe that using e-cigarettes or vaping devices will damage their health in the future (2019 global poll)


The top 3 health conditions product users in the UK believe are caused by smoking tobacco are: lung cancer (89.5% of users), heart disorder (87.4% of users), and throat cancer (86.9% of users). (2019 global poll)


76.6% of nicotine or tobacco product users in the Uk believe that nicotine is harmful (2019 global poll)


44.2% of nicotine or tobacco product users in the UK believe that tobacco-related cancer is primarily caused by nicotine (2019 global poll)

Have you ever spent money on cigarettes that you knew would be better spent on household essentials like food?

Would an increase in tobacco price have an effect on your current smoking habit?

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