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Publication, Part of

Statistics on Smoking, England - 2019 [NS] [PAS]

Official statistics, National statistics

National Statistics

Part 5: Patterns in tobacco consumption and spending

This section looks at how the availability and affordability of tobacco has changed over time, expenditure on tobacco, the value of the illicit tobacco market, and where young people get cigarettes. The data sources included are as follows:

  • Availability of tobacco, and illicit tobacco sales data for the UK is extracted from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) statistical bulletins.
  • Affordability of tobacco in the UK has been calculated using information on tobacco price and retail price indices taken from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) consumer price indices and households’ disposable income datasets.

Data on tobacco expenditure and household expenditure are taken from two sources:

  • ONS Consumer Trends which gives annual figures for UK household expenditure on tobacco and total household expenditure.
  • ONS Family Spending in the UK statistical bulletin, for weekly expenditure on cigarettes.

Data on where young people (secondary school pupils aged 11 to 15) get cigarettes is taken from the Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People survey (SDD).

Availability of tobacco (UK)

Releases of cigarettes (for home consumption)

Releases of cigarettes for home consumption have continued to fall since the mid-1990’s.

26.2 billion sticks were released in 2018; 69% less than in 1996, and 8% less than 2017.


Releases of hand rolling tobacco (for home consumption)

Between 2004 and 2012, releases of hand-rolling tobacco more than doubled, reflecting the increase in the proportion of adults who smoked hand-rolled cigarettes.

Releases have remained fairly steady since 2012.


1.  Decline in 1999 due to no forestalling taking place – See Appendix B: Technical Notes, Section 3 for more details.    



Affordability of tobacco (UK)

Long term trend

In the UK since 1987 (an arbitrarily chosen base year) prices of tobacco, as measured by the tobacco price index, have increased more than the retail price index.

Consequently the affordability of tobacco index1 has fallen over this period; in other words tobacco has become less affordable.

Last ten years (2008 to 2018)

Over the last ten years the price of tobacco has increased by 97%2.

The price of tobacco increased by 50%3 relative to retail prices, whilst real households’ disposable income (adjusted) increased by 5% over the same period.

As a result, tobacco has become 30% less affordable since 20084.


1. For more information see Appendix B: Technical Notes, Section 2.

2. Based on Tobacco Price Index.   

3. Based on Tobacco Price Index Relative to Retail Price Index (all items).

4. Based on Affordability of Tobacco Index.



Expenditure on tobacco (UK)

Expenditure on tobacco as a percent of total household expenditure

Tobacco expenditure as a proportion of total household expenditure was 1.5% in 2018. It fell from 2.8% in 1985 to 1.6% in 2008, but has been fairly stable over the last ten years.


Average weekly expenditure on cigarettes1

Average weekly household expenditure on cigarettes was £2.60 in 2017/18.

People in the 50-64 age group spent the most, with an average of £3.30 a week.

The lowest weekly expenditure was by those aged 75 or over, with an average of £1.20.


1.  Across all households whether they include smokers or not.

For more information on the data in this section:



Illicit tobacco market (UK)

Illicit market tax gap estimates (value of lost tax)1,2

The cigarette tax gap decreased to an estimated £1.0 billion in 2017/18 from £1.7 billion in 2016/17.

The hand rolled tobacco tax gap increased to an estimated £0.8 billion in 2017/18 from £0.7 billion in 2016/17.


Illicit market share estimates2

The illicit market share for cigarette sales decreased to 9% in 2017/18 from 15% in 2016/17.

The illicit market share for hand rolled tobacco has increased to 32% from 27% in 2016/17.


1.  Based on the weighted average price of all UK duty paid cigarettes/hand rolled tobacco.

2. Figures are subject to confidence intervals. See source data for further details.



Where young people get cigarettes

Usual sources1 of cigarettes (regular smokers)

The most common source of cigarettes for regular smokers in 2016 was to be given them by friends (43%). 

38% said that they usually bought cigarettes from shops, a sharp decline from 57% in 2014.  The display of tobacco products in all shops has been prohibited since 2015. 

Over the years, there have been changes in legislation designed to limit young people’s access to cigarettes.  See the source publication for key dates.  


Whether pupils found it difficult to buy cigarettes from shops (current smokers)

The proportion of smokers who said they found it difficult to buy cigarettes from shops increased to 28% in 2016. This follows a period where reported difficulty fell for several years, having been preceded by a sharp increase in 2008. The legal age for buying cigarettes increased from 16 to 18 in Oct 2007. 


1.  Over the years, there have been changes in legislation designed to limit young people’s access to cigarettes. See source publication below for more information.

2. Pupils could give more than one answer. Only the most common sources are discussed – see table 3.1 of the source publication for a full list.   

Last edited: 1 July 2019 2:48 pm