Number of smokers in England falls by 1.6 million in six years

Data from NHS Digital, Public Health England and the Office for National Statistics show a large fall in quit attempts through NHS Stop Smoking services.

Older person smoking a cigarette

Official figures show the number of adults smoking in England fell by 1.6 million between 2011 and 2017, but falling numbers quit using NHS Stop Smoking Services.

The annual figures released by NHS Digital, Public Health England and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the overall number of adult smoking tobacco cigarettes in England fell by around 1.6 million to 6.1 million between 2011 and 2017.

But quit attempts through NHS Stop Smoking services declined since 2011/2012 from 800,000 attempts per year to around 300,000 in 2016/2017. However, self-reported quit rates have remained fairly constant since 2006/2007.

The ‘Statistics on Smoking, England: 2018’ report includes figures on prevalence of smoking among adults and young people, e-cigarette prevalence, hospital admissions and mortality attributable to smoking.

The figures show that hospital admissions attributable to smoking increased by 2% in 2016/2017 compared to 2015/2016; however, deaths attributable to smoking decreased by 2% in that same time period.

E-cigarette prevalence in 2017 for adults remained similar to 2016, at 5%, an increase from 4% in 2014. Adults aged 25–34 and 35–49 years were found to be the most likely age groups to use e-cigarettes and the most common reason for adults using e-cigarettes was as an aid to quit smoking — 70% of smokers believed e-cigarettes to be less harmful than cigarettes, compared with 78% of ex-smokers.

A quarter of school pupils aged 11–15 years (25%) reported they had ever used e-cigarettes, up from 22% in 2014. Current and regular e-cigarette prevalence among pupils remained low but has increased from 4% to 6%, and from 1% to 2% respectively since 2014.

In 2017/2018, 463,000 items of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) were dispensed, down from 542,000 in 2016/2017 and around a quarter of the total in 2007/2008. In addition, 378,000 items of varenicline were dispensed in 2017/2018 compared with a peak of 987,000 items in 2010/2011.

Bupropion was the least common item to be prescribed, with 23,000 dispensed in 2017/2018.

The net ingredient cost (NIC) of all prescription items used to help people quit smoking in 2017/2018 was £26m, representing a fall of 61% when compared to 2010/2011, when the NIC of prescription items peaked at £65.9m. The average NIC per pharmacotherapy item in 2017/2018 was £30.00.

The report also highlights that just over 10% of mothers in 2017/2018 were smokers at the time of delivery, down from 15.8% in 2006/07 but still above the national ambition of 6% or less.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2018, Vol 301, No 7915;301(7915):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205106

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