Healthier younger adults linked to drop in smoking levels

cigarettesAs we reach the tenth day of the annual Stoptober Challenge, smokers across Britain should be encouraged to learn that the proportion of adults that are smoking in the UK has dropped to its smallest percentage since records began in the 1940s.

Figures published this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that amongst the over-18s, smoking prevalence stood at 18.7% in 2013 – down from the rate of 19.8% in 2012.

The decline was revealed by the Integrated Household Survey run by ONS, a survey that quizzed almost 270,000 people over the age of 18 about their smoking habits.

The other large-scale survey to monitor smoking – the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey – demonstrated a smoking prevalence of 20% in 2012, and is widely expected to confirm the drop below one in five when its latest set of figures are released in November.

The 18.7% smoking rate shows ministers could be on course for hitting their target of bringing down the percentage of smokers to 18.5% by 2015 – if more people continue to quit.

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: “It is very welcome that the number of smokers is at its lowest level as this means many more people will not die prematurely. However we want to help more people to quit as smoking is still a huge killer, taking nearly 80,000 lives a year. We know the idea of giving up smoking can be daunting but by using a local stop smoking service smokers are four times more likely to succeed.”

Much of the drop has been pinpointed to an ever-increasing number of younger adults that are quickly wising up to the massive damage that smoking can do, and turning against tobacco. The younger generation are generally more clean-living than their ancestors, something many believed could be linked the rise of social media, meaning there is a better chance youngsters are in their bedrooms on Facebook instead of hanging around street corners or in bars.

The ONS survey did find however that around 21.1% of men are smoking, compared to just 16.5% of women. A third of the population have successfully quit smoking, whilst half say they have never smoked.

The proportion of the population lighting up has drastically decreased though since the 1940s, then tobacco industry statistics showed almost two thirds of men were smokers. When the ONS began records of their own in 1974, 45% of Brits were smokers – 52% of men and 41% of women.

By 2006, the numbers had slashed in half, but stayed at around the 20% level through the years of the recent recession, despite the introduction of the 2007 smoking ban.

The new figures released this week were obviously met with delight by ministers and the charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), who said the findings should allay fears that increasing use of electronic cigarettes would result in more people turning to regular smoking.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, said: “This statistically significant decline in adult smokers shows that the government’s tobacco control plan is working. However, over 80,000 people still die from smoking every year in England and every week hundreds of children take up smoking.

“Tough new measures to regulate tobacco, like plain standardised packaging, are needed if we are to drive down smoking still further. We urge the government to waste no time in allowing parliament to vote on the regulations which will finally get rid of glitzy, glamorous cigarette packs forever,” Arnott said.

“The drop in smoking also shows that concerns that the use of electronic cigarettes would lead to a renormalisation of tobacco use appear unfounded. The rapid increase in use of these products has coincided with a consistent steady decline in smoking.”

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