Smoking rate could soon fall to under 20%

smoking rateSmoking prevalence amongst adults in England is still steadily declining at approximately 0.5% – 1% each year and will soon be below 20% for the first time in a century, according to an expert involved in an on-going study into the smoking rate across England.

The proportion of smokers in England was just 20.1% in 2011; when annual results from the survey were last published. Barring any unlikely change to the trend, rates are set to drop under the ‘psychologically significant’ 20% mark.

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% 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 analyses the smoking habits of people over the age of 16 each month, with data being made available online. Information is also obtained by researchers via household surveys from almost 2,000 people.

According to the survey, average smoking prevalence across England currently stands at 19.1%, with obvious discrepancies between demographics.

For instance, with regards to the socio-economic scale, only around 13% of people are smokers in the upper and middle A, B and C1 social brackets. However, over a quarter of people smoke in the C2, D and E groups.

Professor West is almost certain that the overall yearly figure will fall to under 20%. He says: “It’s looking very promising. We’re at a psychologically significant point. My guess is that the publicity around it will help to stop even more people smoking.”

Over 100,000 people die each year due to a smoking-related disease, and tobacco use is still the single biggest cause of preventable death.

Smoking surveys were first formulated back in 1948 when a staggering 82% of men in the UK were smokers. During the 1970s to 1990s, smoking prevalence decreased dramatically and a slow decline is continuing in the present day.

Professor West believes long-term reduction in smoking rates will not suddenly come to a halt anytime soon. “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.”

Reasons for the decline were probably down to a number of factors he said such as the price of tobacco regularly being increased by the government, media campaigns and services available to help smokers quit.

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