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Number of adult smokers fall by 1.6m in six years

The number of adults in England who smoke cigarettes fell by 1.6m in the past six years, according to a new report from NHS Digital.

In 2011, 7.7m adults (19.8%) were smokers, copared to 6.1m (14.9%) in 2017.

The report on smoking in England also showed the number of hospital admissions related to smoking increased by 2% from 2015/16 to 2016/17, reaching 484,700 estimated hospital admissions. This accounted for 6% of all admissions among males, and 3% of all admissions among females.

Around 11% of pregnant women were known smokers at the time of delivery, which was a similar rate to the previous year but down form 16% in 2006/07.

The number of items dispensed related to smoking cessation decreased to 860,000, compared to 2.48m in 2007/08 and a peak of 2.56m in 2010/11.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the rates of adult smokers remain higher at just over 16%.

The data comes despite 90% of councils having slashed spending on public health services including smoking cessation.

However, yesterday NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens told MPs on the House of Commons Health Committee that NHS England would look at expanding smoking cessation beyond the remit of local authority public health commissioning.

He said: ‘I think it’s pretty clear we’re going to have to keep pushing harder on smoking and smoking cessation is part of that, that can’t all be done through local authority commissioned services.

‘I think we’re going to have to look at how the NHS can embed smoking in more of the routine contacts we have with vulnerable groups who are still smoking.’

The Government aims for rates of smoking among adults in England to drop to 12% or less by 2022.

The above data did not include smokers of e-cigarettes. Prevalence of e-cigarette smoking in 2017 for adults remained similar to 2016, at 5%, an increase from 4% in 2014, NHS Digital said.

The most common reason for adults using e-cigarettes was as an aid to quit smoking (48%).

Key statistics

  • The number of adult smokers has dropped from 7.7m (19.8% of adults) in 2011 to 6.1m (14.9%) in 2017.
  • 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 Wales.
  • 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.
  • Adults aged 25 to 34 were most likely to smoke (20%), whilst those aged 65 and over were least likely to smoke (8%).
  • Six per cent of pupils aged between 11 and 15 reported they were current smokers in 2016, from 22% in 1996.
  • The number of items dispensed as an aid to stop smoking in England was 0.86m in 2017/18, compared to 2.48m in 2007/08 and a peak of 2.56m in 2010/11.

Source: NHS Digital