According to new data, the number of young adult smokers in Britain has nosedived to its lowest level since records first began in 1974.
The most recent statistics from the Office for National Statistics, for 2015, seem to show that one in every five (or 20.7%) 18- to 24-year-olds is a smoker. Interestingly, only five years previously in 2010, the figure stood at one in every four (25.8%).
The latest data also shows that 17.2% of adults in the UK smoked in 2015, dropping from 20.1% in 2010.
Around 70% of 16- to 24-year-olds have not smoked cigarettes at all the data suggests, yet in 1974 this figure was only 46%.
Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) says: “We know that young people who try smoking are highly likely to grow up to become smokers, so the high numbers of young people reporting that they have never even tried smoking is good news.”
Moreover, within the age group that are most likely to be rife with smokers, the 24- to 35-year-olds, about 60% have never smoked, rising from 35% back in 1974.
Overall, Scotland has the biggest smoking levels, at 19.1%, closely followed by Northern Ireland, where it is 19%. Meanwhile, Wales has a smoking rate of 18.1% and England’s is the lowest in the UK at 16.9%.
There is also the rise of e-cigarettes which could be linked to a decreasing in smoking rates. In 2015, three out of every 100 16- to 24-year-olds used electronic cigarettes, an increase from just one in every 100 in 2014.
The data found that in total, 2.3 million people were e-cigarette users in England, Scotland and Wales in 2015, working out at about 4% of the population. In addition, a further 4 million people claim to be former users of the devices, with another 2.6 million saying they have previously used them, but not advanced to become regular users.
Of those 2.3 million e-cig users, half explained they were doing this in order to quit smoking, with 22% additional people in the survey stating they were using the devices due to them being less harmful than regular smoking. Cost was the issue for 10%, who claimed to vape because it was cheaper than smoking, with a further 9% citing the fact they could use e-cigs indoors as their reason for doing so.
The figures will delight those who are of the opinion that electronic cigarettes have a major role to play in ending the tobacco epidemic.
On the flip side, there are some groups that argue vaping may be nothing but an initial gateway to smoking for youngsters and point to the fruit flavours as being on key factor that could draw teens to them to begin with.
In December 2016, the US Surgeon General said blasted e-cigarettes as being “a major public health concern” due to their usage in younger people.
However, Ash argue the Office for National Statistics findings “confirm that most users are smokers or ex-smokers.”
“The figures also highlight that most users are seeking to improve their health, with the most common reason for use being as an aid to quit smoking,” they add.
“Where smokers make a complete switch, they can expect to significantly reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals which cause cancer and other smoking-related illnesses.”