- By the end of the year it’s expected less than a fifth of Britons will smoke
- Among the upper and middle classes about 13% of people smoke
- 25% of people in the lower social brackets are smokers
- Smoking causes 86% of lung cancer deaths and 80% of bronchitis deaths
Smoking prevalence among England’s adult population is set to drop below 20 per cent for the first time in a century.
Smoking among England’s adult population is set to drop below 20 per cent for the first time in a century, it was revealed today.
An ongoing survey of tobacco use is expected to show the turning point being crossed by the end of this year.
The proportion of smokers in England dipped as low as 20.1 per cent in 2011, when the last yearly results from the survey were published, but never quite reached the ‘psychologically significant’ 20 per cent watermark.
Researchers plan to publish more figures at the end of this year.
Unless there is a highly unlikely U-turn in the current trend, they will show that less than a fifth of people in England now smoke.
Professor Robert West, from University College London, who co-heads the Smoking Toolkit Study, said: ‘2013 is going to be, almost without doubt, the first year for a hundred years where we’re solidly below 20 per cent smoking prevalence in England. It’s going to be a big year.
‘We are making progress. It’s slow, and we’d like it to be quicker, but things are going in the right direction.’
The Smoking Toolkit Study tracks smoking habits in adults over the age of 16 every month and publishes the results online. Researchers conduct household surveys to collect information from around 1,800 people.
Currently, it shows that average smoking prevalence across England is 19.1 per cent, with a marked difference between populations at the top and the bottom of the socio-economic scale.
Among those in the upper and middle A, B and C1 social brackets, only around 13 per cent smoke.
But tobacco is part of the lives of more than a quarter of people classified as C2, D and E.
Tobacco use is recognised as the single biggest cause of preventable disease and early death in the UK, claiming more than 102,000 lives a year.
Smoking causes around 86 per cent of deaths from lung cancer, 80 per cent of deaths from bronchitis and emphysema, and 17 per cent of deaths from heart disease.
In 1948, when smoking surveys began, 82 per cent of men in the UK were smokers. Smoking prevalence fell rapidly between the 1970s and 1990s after which it has continued a slow decline.
Smoking causes around 86 per cent of deaths from lung cancer (pictured), 80 per cent of deaths from bronchitis and emphysema, and 17 per cent of deaths from heart disease.
Professor West said the long term reduction in smoking prevalence showed no sign of coming to an end.
‘We don’t see that happening in England,’ he said. ‘The decline now is between about 0.5 and one percentage point a year which is a pretty decent rate. There’s no evidence that it’s plateauing.’
He added that Government policies such as raising tobacco pricing, mass media campaigns and services to help smokers quit ‘definitely’ played a role in cutting tobacco consumption.
He warned there was no room for complacency, as had been seen in France where no attempt was made to follow up a big hike in tobacco prices. Smoking rates dropped sharply for a time, but then prevalence started to rise again.
‘You definitely need to keep bearing down on it,’ Professor West added.
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