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​English Adult Smoking Numbers Drop to Record Levels.

31st Jul 2018

For the first time adult smoking numbers across England have dropped below fifteen percent. These statistics were released by Public Health England (PHE) and ONS (The Office for National Statistics). Right now 6.1 million adults smoke in the UK. This means that since 2014 over a million individuals have chosen to given up harmful tobacco smoking. We are hopeful that the number will keep on dropping and based on records for the past five years it looks likely. Currently smoking prevalence is at 14.9% whereas it was 19.4% back in late 2013.

Whichever way you look at it this is good news. What has caused the drop in smoking numbers though and what can we do to ensure these numbers continue to decline?

NHS Stop Smoking Support Services

A big shout out has to go to the NHS stop smoking services which have supported many in their quest to give up harmful tobacco smoking. Tobacco smoking is highly addictive, not simply because cigarettes contain nicotine but because the body gets used to a number of other, not so friendly chemicals. In addition to this smokers battle the need for the physical routines and habits associated with smoking, for example the hand to mouth action, the calming effect and the social aspect. This is why giving up cold turkey is so hard!

The dedicated NHS stop smoking services help individuals to identify the most appropriate way to help them quit and for good, using nicotine replacement therapy (NCT) a well as group counselling/support groups. Sadly the number of stop smoking clinics and services are reducing fast due to funding issues. Here at Go Smoke Free we recognise and appreciate the great work these support services do to help people move away from a habit that is incredibly harmful to health and hope replacement funding can be sourced to keep them open.

Public Health Campaigns

Awareness is key when trying to make a change. From the hugely popular and highly successful Stoptober campaign that runs every October and urges people to give up smoking to the numerous other anti-smoking advertisements and more, it is clear that the more people understand about the dangers of smoking the more they are likely to want to quit. Changes to tobacco packaging and cigarette packets over the past few years which now include graphic pictures showing the effects of smoking as well as written warnings have also given people cause to pause and rethink their habit. It’s hard to ignore the fact that smoking is causing harm to your health and perhaps even shortening your lifespan when you are reminded every time you walk past a billboard, log on online or even buy your tobacco cigarettes.

Vaping as a Healthier Alternative to Smoking

It is no coincidence that smoking numbers have dropped as vaping popularity has increased. Vaping can’t take all the credit, far from it however expert studies indicate that there are now 2 million vapers who were previously smokers. More vapers, as many as six hundred thousand, still smoke however are using vaping to help them give up smoking for good. Given that vaping is a relatively new development, certainly as compared to smoking, this is significant.

One of the reasons that vaping is such as good alternative to smoking is the fact that as well as being at least 95%less harmful to health (according to Public Health England), vaping mimics the action of smoking. This is important because as before smokers are used to having something in their hand, to inhaling and exhaling and so on. With vaping these enjoyable factors still exist only without the toxic chemicals which have been classified by the World Health Organisation as being potentially harmful to health.

In addition to helping smokers replace smoke with a flavoured non-toxic vapour (that is produced by the heating of e liquids rather than the burning of anything), e liquids contain nicotine in various different strengths.This means that moving away from smoking needn’t be quite so hard when you still have access to the nicotine level that you are used to. The difference being that because e liquids come at various different strength levels new vapers may step down their nicotine usage gradually if they wish. Better still there are hundreds of nicotine free e liquids available too.

Indeed, many organisations from Cancer Research UK to Public Health England fiercely advocate for the use of e cigarettes as an alternative to smoking and a way to get people away from such a harmful habit. It’s clear to see that vaping has most definitely had an impact on smoking numbers and it is expected that this will continue.

The 2007 Go Smoke Free Legislation

Back in 2007 Public Health England put into action the Go Smoke Free legislation. This new law made it illegal for people to smoke in numerous public places. Smoking was banned in pubs, cafes and eateries, in the workplace, in public spaces such as at concerts and in public buildings and on public transport. The reasoning behind the ban was partly to protect those who were party to harmful exposure to cigarette smoke via passive smoking. Research has shown that passive smoking can be as dangerous as smoking itself to non-smokers unwittingly breathing in chemical-filled smoke.

The by-product of this ban has also been to alter public perception of smoking and to encourage more and more people to give up smoking. We’d say that it has most certainly done that!

Why is This Such Great News?

This significant drop in smoking numbers means that people are starting to understand that smoking is dangerous and recognise that there are valid and healthier alternatives available. Smoking numbers dropping is not just great news for those taking better care of their health and their family’s health but also the environment and the NHS. Vast amounts of money is spent every year on hospital admissions, GP visits, prescriptions and treatments for smoking-related illnesses. The fewer people that smoke, the less it costs the NHS. It’s as simple as that.

What Can We Do?

If you want to help contribute to lowering the number of people who are smoking there are many things you can do. Contact your local MP to ask for support in order to keep nearby NHS stop smoking clinics open. Tell people about the benefits of vaping over tobacco smoking and dispel the myths you hear (without shoving vaping down someone’s throat), share posts about public health campaigns and support family members and friends when they do decide to give quitting smoking a try. If we all do our bit we can all reap the benefits.


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