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Publication, Part of

Statistics on Smoking, England - 2019 [NS] [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 sources have been used:

  • Smoking prevalence information is primarily taken from the Annual Population Survey (APS), with some additional analyses included from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN). This year, data from the OPN are based on survey questions designed for telephone data collection, as part of a wider transformation programme to modernise data collection for online and telephone modes. Further information can be found in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publication1.
  • 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) 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) 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

14.4% of adults in England are current smokers, down from 14.9% in 2017, and 19.8% in 2011.

This equates to a drop of around 1.8 million smokers in the adult population since 2011

The rate is above the current national ambition of 12% or less.

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 smoke (19%), with those aged 65 and over the least likely (8%).


However, prevalence since 2011 has fallen most in the younger age groups.


Smoking prevalence, by marital status

Married adults were least likely to be current smokers (9%). Prevalence for other groups ranged from 16% to 21%.


Smoking prevalence, by socio economic status

Adults classified as routine and manual workers were most likely to be current smokers (25%).

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 7% of those with a degree were current smokers compared to 29% with no formal qualifications.


Smoking prevalence, by employment status

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 14.7%. Of the constituent countries, England had the lowest (14.4%).

Prevalence was 15.5% in Northern Ireland, 15.9% in Wales and 16.3% in Scotland.


Smoking prevalence in England by Local Authority (LA)

Kingston upon Hull and Lincoln had the highest smoking prevalence with 26% of the adult population reporting they smoked.

Rushcliffe and Richmond upon Thames had the lowest smoking prevalence with 4% and 6% of adults reporting they smoked in 2018 respectively.


Daily smoking prevalence: UK comparison with other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries6,7 

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, Norway and USA reported daily smoking levels of less than 12%.


1. ONS: Opinions and Lifestyle Survey

2. The Health Survey for England also provides an alternative source of smoking prevalence data, but is not used for this purpose in this report.

3. From approximately 7.7 million (2011) to 5.9 million (2018). Based on the weighted adult population in England for the respective years.

4. 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.

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

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

7. 2017 or nearest available year. 

For more information on the data in this section:



Use of e-cigarettes by adults

E-cigarette1 prevalence, by year

6.3% of adults2 were current e-cigarette users. This continues the upward trend since 2014 when it was 3.7%.


E-cigarette prevalence, by age

Adults aged 35 to 49 were most likely to use e-cigarettes (8.1%).

Adults aged 60 and over were least likely (4.1%).


Main reason given for using e-cigarettes

The most common reason e-cigarette users gave for use was to aid themselves in quitting smoking (51.5%).

The next most common reason was “Other” (21.5%) which included "because I enjoy it" and "because it's something I do with my friends”


Perception of harm compared to smoking, by cigarette smoking status

Please note: perception of e-cigarette harm is based on 2016 estimates, as these have not been updated since (due to the question no longer being on the survey).

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: perception of e-cigarette harm is based on 2016 estimates, as these have not been updated since (due to the question no longer being on the survey).

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. Evidence reviews by Public Health England on the impact of e-cigarettes:



Smoking during pregnancy

Smoking prevalence, by year

10.6% of pregnant women were known to be smokers at the time of delivery in 2018/19. This is similar to 2017/18 (10.8%) but down from 14.6% in 2008/09.

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


Smoking prevalence, by Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)

28 out of 195 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) met the new national ambition of 6% or less.

Rates varied from 1.6% in NHS West London, to 25.7% in NHS Blackpool.


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

2. Based on persons aged 16 and over. 

3. Evidence reviews by Public Health England on the impact of e-cigarettes:

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



Self reported exposure to second hand smoke

Self reported exposure to second hand smoke, by age1

28% of men and 24% of women reported at least some exposure to second hand smoke.

Exposure was highest among those aged 16-24 with 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 work and home.


1. Based on persons aged 16 and over.

Last edited: 1 July 2019 2:48 pm