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Number of smokers drops by almost two million in seven years

The number of adults in England who smoke cigarettes has decreased by 1.8m in the past seven years, according to new figures.

NHS Digital reported there were 5.9m smokers in 2018 compared with 7.7m in 2011.  

But despite a fall in the number of smokers, hospital admissions linked to smoking have continued to increase – by 1% between 2016/17 and 2017/18, up to 489,300.

This is 11% higher than a decade ago – when in 2007/8 there were 440,400 smoking-related hospital admissions recorded.

Meanwhile, there were just 740,000 items prescribed in England last year to help people quit smoking – down from 2.26m items prescribed 10 years ago, and a peak of 2.56m in 2010/11.

This follows reports earlier this year showing less than 10% of councils still commission smoking cessation through primary care

Other key findings of the report showed that: 

  • 14.4% of adults in England are known as current smokers, the lowest rate among the four nations
  • Smoking prevalence is the highest in Scotland (16.3%), followed by Wales (15.9%) and Northern Ireland (15.5%)
  • There were around 77,800 smoking-related deaths in 2017, a 6% decrease from 2007
  • 10.6% of pregnant women smoke at the time of delivery in 2018/19, down from 14.9% in 2017.

A Pulse investigation last year revealed nine out of 10 councils cut spending on public health services, such as smoking cessation.

Last year Public Health England also found that e-cigarettes could be supporting at least 20,000 people quit smoking a year and concluded that there was ‘compelling evidence’ for e-cigarettes to be available to NHS patients.

Meanwhile, the Royal Society for Public Health called for GP drop-in services and smoking cessation to be made available in fitness facilities.


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