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Chart of the week: Smoking in the UK

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 14 Sep 2023

Our chart of the week looks at how the prevalence of smoking in the UK population has continued to decline over the past decade.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recently published its latest statistics on adult smoking habits in the UK, showing a continuing decline in the prevalence of smoking in the UK population over the past decade or so.

As our chart this week highlights, the proportion of those aged 18 or over in the UK who smoke cigarettes has fallen from 20.2% in 2011 to 19.6% (2012), 18.8% (2013), 18.1% (2014), 17.2% (2015), 15.8% (2016), 15.1% (2017), 14.7% (2018), 14.1% (2019), 14.0% (2020), 13.3% (2021) and 12.9% in 2022.

Over this period the decline is dramatic, with the respective proportion of men and women smoking down from 22.4% and 18.2% in 2011 to 14.6% and 11.2% in 2022.

The proportion of people smoking in all age groups has fallen over the past 11 years, with those aged 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64 and 65+ who smoke declining from 25.7%, 25.8%, 23.3%, 21.6%, 18.5% and 10.2% in 2011 to 11.6%, 16.3%, 14.5%, 14.3%, 13.6% and 8.3% in 2022.

While the government and anti-smoking campaigners will be pleased by the continued progress in persuading people to give up smoking, they will be more concerned by the increase in the numbers vaping, particularly among those in their late teens and early 20s.

The proportion of those aged 16 or over in Great Britain who use e-cigarettes on a daily or occasional basis increased from 6.4% in 2020 to 8.7% in 2022. For those aged 16-24, 25-34, 35-49, 50-59 and 60+ the increase was from 7.0%, 8.6%, 7.5%, 7.9% and 3.5% in 2020 to 15.5%, 10.6%, 9.5%, 8.5%, 4.4% in 2022. (These percentages are not properly comparable with the smoking statistics as they are for a different comparator period, include those aged 16 and 17, are for different age bands, and exclude Northern Ireland.)

The continued decline in smoking has had a consequent impact on tobacco duty as despite a 70% rise in tobacco duty rates between 2011 and 2022, the amount collected has declined from £9.9bn in 2011/12 to £9.4bn in 2022/23, a drop in cash terms of 5% and in real terms of 26%.

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