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Publication, Part of

Statistics on Smoking - England , 2018 [PAS]

Official statistics, National statistics

National Statistics

Part 3: Smoking patterns among adults

This part presents information on smoking patterns among adults. Smoking prevalence, consumption and trends among different groups of society and geographical areas are explored, along with smoking during pregnancy. The following data sources have been used:

- Smoking prevalence information is primarily taken from the Annual Population Survey (APS) , with some additional analysis included from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN). The latter has a smaller sample size but a longer time series, and provides some data not included in the APS (e.g. e-cigarette use). Both are run by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the results are presented as part of the ‘Adult Smoking Habits’ 2017 publication. In these surveys anyone who answered yes to the question ‘do you smoke cigarettes at all nowadays?’ is recorded as a current smoker. 

- International comparisons of daily smoking prevalence are taken from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 's (OECD) Health statistics database. 

- NHS Digital's Statistics on Women’s Smoking Status at Time of Delivery (SATOD) 2017/18 report provides information on the prevalence of smoking among pregnant women.

- Data on exposure to second hand smoke is taken from the Health Survey for England (HSE) 2015 which is published by NHS Digital. The survey is designed to measure health and health-related behaviours in adults and children in England.

All data is for adults aged 18 and over in England unless otherwise stated.


Smoking prevalence among adults

Smoking prevalence, by year

14.9% of adults in England are current smokers, down from 15.5% in 2016, and 19.8% in 2011. 

This equates to a drop of around 1.6 million smokers in the adult population since 2011, from approximately 7.7 million (2011) to 6.1 million (2017)1.

Based on the longer time series of the OPN, in 2000, 26.8% of adults aged 16+ were smokers.


Smoking prevalence, by sex

Men were more likely to be current smokers than women.


Smoking prevalence, by ethnicity

Adults of Black, Asian, or Chinese ethnicities were less likely to be current smokers than those of Mixed, White, or Other ethnicities.


Smoking prevalence, by age

The likelihood of being a current smoker is highest in younger age groups. Adults aged 25 to 34 were most likely to be current smokers (20%), with those aged 65 and over the least likely (8%).


However, prevalence since 2011 has fallen most in the younger age groups; It is down by 8 percentage points among 18-24 year olds (from 26% to 18%).


Smoking prevalence, by marital status

Married adults were least likely to be current smokers (10%). Prevalence for other groups ranged from 17% to 22%.


Smoking prevalence, by socio economic status

Adults classified as routine and manual workers were most likely to be current smokers (26%).

Those in managerial and professional occupations were least likely (10%).


Smoking prevalence, by qualifications

Adults with higher levels of qualifications were less likely to be current smokers.

Only 8% of those with a degree were current smokers, compared to 28% with no formal qualifications.


Smoking prevalence, by employment status2

29% of unemployed adults were current smokers compared to 15% of employed adults.


Smoking prevalence in the United Kingdom

The prevalence of current smokers in the UK was 15.1%. Of the constituent countries, England had the lowest (14.9%).

Prevalence was 16.5% in Northern Ireland, 16.3% in Scotland, and 16.1% in Wales.


Smoking prevalence in England by Local Authority (LA)3

Since 2012, Blackpool has consistently featured in the ten local authorities with the highest smoking prevalence. This trend continued into 2017, with 22% of Blackpool’s adult population reporting they smoked.

Both Hastings and the City of Kingston Upon Hull have featured in this group for the third consecutive year, with 22% and 23% reporting they smoked, respectively.

Chiltern has featured in the 10 local authorities with the lowest prevalence for the fourth consecutive year with 6%  of adults reporting they smoked in 2017.


Daily smoking prevalence: UK comparison with other OECD countries4,5

The daily smoking level of 16% reported for the UK in 2016, was 2 percentage points lower than the OECD average of 18%. Greece reported the highest daily smoking level with 27%.

Mexico, Iceland, Sweden and USA reported daily smoking levels of less than 12%.


1. Based on the weighted adult population in England for the respective years.

2. Unemployed people are those who are not currently in work but who are looking for work. Inactive contains those who are not in work, and not looking for work. This includes retired people and students.

3. Smoking prevalence estimates by LA tend to fluctuate each year due to small samples sizes producing a larger degree of statistical uncertainty.

4. Based on persons aged 15 and over, or closest available equivalent. 

5. 2016 or nearest available year. Chile has not provided data since 2009 so was excluded.

For more information on the data in this section:



Use of e-cigarettes by adults

E-cigarette1 prevalence, by year

5% of adults (aged 16+), were current e-cigarette users. This is similar to 2016, but an increase since 2014 (4%).


E-cigarette prevalence, by age

Adults aged 25 to 34, and 35 to 49 were most likely to use e-cigarettes (8% and 7% respectively).

Adults aged 60 and over were least likely (3%).


Main reason given for using e-cigarettes

The most common reason e-cigarette users gave for use was to aid themselves in quitting smoking (48%).

The next most common reason was that they are perceived to be less harmful than cigarettes (30%).


Perception of harm compared to smoking, by cigarette smoking status

Please note: Data on perception of e-cigarette harm was not collected in the Adult Smoking Habits 2017 report, and so there has been no update to this data since the Statistics on Smoking 2017 publication.

Smokers tend to have a biased perception of e-cigarettes when compared to the perceptions held by ex-smokers.

70% of smokers believed e-cigarettes were less harmful than cigarettes, compared to 78% of ex-smokers2.



Proportion of current smokers who perceive e-cigarettes to be less harmful, by e-cigarette use

Please note: Data on perception of e-cigarette harm was not collected in the Adult Smoking Habits 2017 report, and so there has been no update to this data since the Statistics on Smoking 2017 publication.

Smokers were more likely to believe e-cigarettes are less harmful if they currently use one; 89% compared to 62% of smokers who have never used an e-cigarette.


1. Use of e-cigarettes is often referred to as “vaping”.

2. A review by Public Health England in 2015 concluded that e-cigarettes are around 95% safer than smoked tobacco:



Smoking during pregnancy

Smoking prevalence, by year

Just under 11% of pregnant women were known to be smokers at the time of delivery in 2017/18.

This is similar to the level recorded in 2016/17, but down from 16% in 2006/07.

The current national ambition is to achieve a level of 6% or less by 20221.


Smoking prevalence, by Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)

35 out of 207 CCGs met the new national ambition of 6% or less.

Rates varied from 2% in NHS Central London (Westminster), to 26% in NHS Blackpool.


1. From 'Towards a smoke free generation: A tobacco control plan for England', Department of Health, 2017



Self reported exposure to second hand smoke

Please note: This topic was not included in the Health Survey for England 2016 report , and so there has been no update to this data since the Statistics on Smoking 2017 publication.

Self reported exposure to second hand smoke, by age

31% of men and 26% of women (age 16+) reported at least some exposure to second hand smoke.

Exposure was highest among those aged 16-24, with over half of this group reporting at least some exposure.



Self reported exposure to second hand smoke, by location

Exposure was most likely to occur in outdoor smoking areas of pubs/restaurants/cafes, followed by at home (including other people’s homes).


Last edited: 10 July 2018 10:32 am