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Around 1.6 million fewer adult smokers in England in six years

The number of adult smokers in England has dropped by around 1.6m between 2011 and 20172, official figures released by NHS Digital, Public Health England and the Office for National Statistics (ONS)3 show.

The term ‘smokers’ covers those who smoke tobacco cigarettes.

The number of adult smokers4 has dropped from 7.7m (19.8% of adults) in 2011 to 6.1m (14.9%) in 20175.

The prevalence of adult smokers in all of 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 Wales6.

The Statistics on Smoking, England: 2018 report is a compendium report published by NHS Digital of both new and already published data on smoking in England, including figures on prevalence of smoking amongst adults and young people, prescriptions data, E-cigarette prevalence, hospital admissions and mortality attributable to smoking, and selected local level analyses.

The report also shows that:

Smoking during pregnancy7

  • 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.

Smoking related ill-health and mortality8

There were 484,700 estimated hospital admissions attributable to smoking in 2016/17, an increase of two per cent on 2015/16 (474,300) and an increase of nine per cent on 2006/07 (444,700).  For males, this accounted for six per cent of all hospital admissions and for females, this accounted for three per cent of all admissions9.

  • Blackpool, Manchester, Kingston upon Hull, Sunderland and Hartlepool all recorded smoking attributable hospital admission rates above 3,000 per 100,000 population while Wokingham had the lowest rate (969 per 100,000 population), followed by Windsor and Maidenhead (1,051), Isle of Wight (1,082) and Redbridge (1,091)10.
  • There were an estimated 77,900 deaths attributable to smoking in 2016, a decrease of two per cent on 2015 (79,100) and a decrease of seven per cent on 2006 (83,400)11.  For males, this accounted for 20% of all deaths, and for females, this accounted for 12% of all deaths12.


  • Adults aged 25 to 34 were most likely to smoke (20%), whilst those aged 65 and over were least likely to smoke (eight per cent)13.
  • Six per cent of pupils aged between 11 and 15 reported they were current smokers in 2016, from 22% in 199614.

Prescription items15

  • The number of items16 dispensed as an aid to stop smoking in England was 0.86 million in 2017/18, compared to 2.48 million in 2007/08 and a peak of 2.56 million in 2010/11
  • NHS Bradford City CCG had the highest rate of items dispensed in 2017/18 at 40 per 1,000 population, whilst NHS Wyre Forest and NHS Redditch and Bromsgrove both recorded rates of less than 1 per 1,000 population.

E-cigarette prevalence

  • Prevalence in 2017 for adults remained similar to 2016, at five per cent, an increase from four per cent in 201417.
  • Adults aged 25 to 34, and 35 to 49 were most likely to use e-cigarettes (eight per cent and seven per cent respectively).
  • The most common reason for adults using e-cigarettes was as an aid to quit smoking (48%)
  • A quarter of pupils (25%) reported ever having tried e-cigarettes in 2016, an increase from 22% in 201418.

Other information that can be found in this report includes use of NHS Stop Smoking services, young people’s attitudes to smoking, household expenditure on tobacco and exposure to second hand smoke.


Read the full report

Statistics on Smoking, England: 2018

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Notes to editors

  1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of the health and care system.  Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend.  During the 2017/18 financial year, NHS Digital published 275 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.
  2. 2011 was the first year that data was fully completed in the Annual Population Survey.
  3. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK's largest independent producer of official statistics and the recognised national statistical institute of the UK.
  4. These figures refer to the number of adults that currently smoke.  Current smokers are defined as those who answered “Yes” to “Have you ever smoked cigarettes regularly?” and “Do you smoke cigarettes at all nowadays?”.
  5. Figures sourced from the ONS: Adult smoking habits, Annual Population Survey, 2017
  6. Figures sourced from the ONS: Adult smoking habits, Annual Population Survey, 2017
  7. Figures sourced from Smoking Status at Time of Delivery 2017/18
  8. The estimates of the proportion of hospital admissions and deaths attributable to smoking are calculated following a recognised methodology.  This uses the proportions of current and ex-smokers in the population and the relative risks of these people dying from specific diseases or developing certain non-fatal conditions compared with those who have never smoked. See Appendix B for further details.  Figures presented relate to people aged 35 and over, as relative risks are only available for this age group.
  9. Figures sourced from NHS Digital’s Hospital Episode Statistics
  10. Figures sourced from Public Health England’s Local Tobacco Control Profiles
  11. Figures sourced from NHS Digital’s Hospital Episode Statistics
  12. Figures sourced from the ONS: Adult smoking habits, Annual Population Survey, 2017
  13. Figures sourced from the ONS: Adult smoking habits, Annual Population Survey, 2017
  14. Figures sourced from NHS Digital’s Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people, 2016
  15. Figures sourced from NHS Prescription Service’s Prescription Analysis and Cost (PACT) data
  16. Prescriptions are written on a prescription form known as a FP10. Each single item written on the form is counted as a prescription item
  17. Figures sourced from ONS: Adult smoking habits, Opinions and Lifestyle survey, 2017
  18. Figures sourced from NHS Digital’s Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people, 2016
  19. For media enquiries please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888.