Exploring The Prevalence Of Smoking In The UK

Published October 21st 2020
Exploring the Prevalence of Smoking in the UK

People have smoked throughout the ages based on historical accounts. Delicious eliquid brands are available Records show that tobacco first began to spread through various cultures more than 7,000 years ago. Many journals that mention cannabis’ rise to fame date back just as far. Of course, opium and other substances entered the mix along the way as well.

Looking Back at the History of Cigarettes

During the early days of the smoking craze, people mainly used pipes and hookahs. Eventually, cigars came into play. Roughly 1,000 years after cigars were introduced to the public, cigarettes as we know them today hit the market. By then, improved farming and manufacturing equipment and faster modes of transportation made tobacco more readily available and gave rise to mass production.

Numerous cigarette manufacturing companies have cropped up over the last couple of centuries. One of the first was P. Lorillard, the manufacturer responsible for brands like Newport and Maverick. The Gallaher Tobacco Company soon followed, bringing Sterling and Mayfair to the public. Philip Morris made a name for itself with its world-famous Marlboros, and Imperial Tobacco added Lambert and Butler to the pack.

How Prevalent Is Smoking in the U.K. Today?

Those popular brands as well as many lesser-known varieties have led to a rise in the prevalence of smoking in the U.K. over the last several decades. According to the latest reports, almost 15 percent of the adult population can be classified as smokers.

That amounts to more than 7 million people.

Scotland had the highest percentage of smokers at 16.3 percent whereas England had the lowest at 14.4 percent. Wales and Northern Ireland fell in the middle of the spectrum at 15.9 and 15.5 percent respectively. On average, another 26 percent of adult non-smokers reported being exposed to secondhand smoke in public places, carpools, and at home.

How Does Age Factor into the Equation?

Based on a breakdown of the latest figures, age is a definitive factor in the popularity of smoking. Less than 8 percent of people over the age of 65 smoke cigarettes while nearly 19 percent of those ages 25 to 34 fall into this category. The numbers for people from the age of 35 to 54 hover around 16 percent. In short, those in the middle smoke more while older citizens are less likely to do so.

Many analysts were surprised to learn that the percentage of smokers who are between the ages of 18 and 24 was only 16.8 during the last year for which information has been made available. This number is much lower than expected. At the same time, smokers in this age group also showed the largest decline, having fallen from almost 26 percent in 2011. Young people are saying no to tobacco more now than ever in recent history.

Smoking is also creeping into the non-adult portion of the population. One recent collection of information points out that almost 20 percent of children under the age of 16 had tried cigarettes at least once. An estimated 7 percent of 15-year-olds and 4 percent of 14-year-olds can presently be classified as regular smokers. This number drops in proportion to age with only 1 percent of 11-year-olds routinely smoking.

Does Occupation Play a Role in the Urge to Smoke?

Occupation appears to play a significant role in the prevalence of smoking in the United Kingdom. Manual laborers and those in routine jobs are more likely to smoke than people in other occupations at more than 25 percent.

These include factory, restaurant, and logistics workers to name a few.

In contrast, just over 10 percent of staff members in managerial positions and professional occupations, such as nurses and attorneys, reported smoking. Smokers in intermediate positions came in at 15.7 percent. More than 29 percent of those who are unemployed are smokers at present.

Though manual labor and routine jobs seem to generate an increased need for nicotine, having no job creates an even stronger craving.

What Other Factors Contribute to Smoking?

Several other factors influence whether people choose to smoke according to the most recent reports. In terms of gender, more men than women are smokers. Being married apparently decreases the smoking rate as only 9.5 percent of people who are married or in a civil union smoke at present.

On the other hand, couples who live together in a less official capacity are more than twice as likely to be smokers.

Slightly fewer single people smoke at 21 percent as opposed to 21.8 percent among cohabitating couples. Almost 17 percent of those who are separated, divorced, or widowed keep cigarettes on hand. Some studies indicate that people who live with smokers are more likely to take up the habit and vice-versa.

Education comes into the picture as well. Less than 8 percent of people with a higher education are smokers compared to almost 30 percent among those without some type of degree. Homeowners are less likely to smoke than renters.

Delving into the Cost of Cigarettes

It’s also important to point out that the cost of cigarettes has surged over the last decade. In fact, the price of ready-made cigarettes has increased by 97 percent. That’s almost twice the average rate of increase for other products. Some experts insist this is one of the reasons for the ongoing decline in the number of people across the UK who smoke.

Where Do E-Cigarettes Fit into the Picture?

Electronic cigarettes didn’t enter the scene until 2003. Since then, vaping has been on a continual increase. Many people are using e-cigarettes as a method of weaning themselves off of traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes allow smokers to step down the amount of nicotine they receive at their own pace.

At the same time, millions of smokers are addicted to the hand-to-mouth motions as much as the nicotine if not more so, and pills, lozenges, and patches just can’t fill the void.

Studies show just over 6 percent of adults currently use e-cigarettes, up from 3.7 percent in 2014. More than half say they’re using this alternative as a way to quit smoking.

Approximately 70 percent of current and former smokers as well as current e-cigarette users believe vaping is less harmful than smoking. It’s also important to note that more young people vape than smoke in the 11 to 15 age group.


Electronic cigarettes have been on the market for less than 2 decades, but they’re quickly gaining steam among the smoking crowd. Many experts are attributing the ongoing decline in the number of smokers in the United Kingdom to the steadily rising percentage of vapers.

As the customizable nicotine levels and the continually growing selection of flavors pique more people’s interest, vaping may ultimately weed out conventional cigarettes entirely.

Written by Steven


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