Hospital Dr News

Smoking levels fall in the UK as the rise of e-cigarettes continues

There has been a significant fall in smoking prevalence among UK adults according to new figures.

NHS Digital data suggests that in 2016 15.5% of adults currently smoke – down from 19.9% in 2010.

In 2000, 26.8% of adults aged 16+ were smokers, and the prevalence since 2010 has fallen most in younger age groups.

The Royal College of Physicians welcomed the figures saying that smoking is the biggest avoidable cause of death and disability in the UK.

There were estimated to be around 79,000 deaths attributable to smoking in 2015, representing 16% of all deaths.

RCP president Professor Jane Dacre said: “In our report Nicotine Without Smoke published last year we argued that electronic cigarettes, by offering smokers an opportunity to continue to use nicotine without exposure to the tobacco smoke that kills, represent a massive potential opportunity to improve public health.

“These latest figures, the latest in a series of substantial falls in smoking prevalence over the past few years, tell us that this and other UK approaches to tobacco control are working.”

There were an estimated 2.4 million current e-cigarette users in 2016, representing around 5% of adults.

Prevalence amongst 16 to 24 year olds increased from 2% in 2015 to 6% in 2016.

Dacre added: “We should continue to develop and exploit harm reduction for public health gain, and encourage as many smokers as possible to either quit altogether, or else switch to a low risk product.”

Other key smoking facts from the new data:

Hospital admissions

  • There were estimated to be around 474,000 hospital admissions attributable to smoking in 2015/16, which was an increase from 458,000 in 2005/06.
  • As a proportion of all admissions, this has fallen to 4% from 6% in 2005/06.


  • In 2016, tobacco was 27% less affordable than it was in 2006.
  • Tobacco expenditure as a proportion of total household expenditure has fallen to 1.6% in 2016, from 2.9% in 1985.

Smoking at the time of delivery

  • Just under 11% of mothers were recorded as smokers at the time of delivery in 2016/17, down from 15% in 2006/07
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