One in six UK adults smoked cigarettes in 2015, according to new data – the lowest level on record – but a leading charity is warning that funding cuts could leave quit services at risk.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 17.2 per cent of people aged 18 years and over smoked cigarettes during 2015, a significant reduction from 20.1 per cent in 2010. “These figures show the fantastic progress that has been made in the UK over the past few decades – with smoking at its lowest level on record,” says George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager.

The declining popularity of smoking across England, Scotland and Wales accounts for the fall. In England, for instance, 16.9 per cent of adults smoked cigarettes in 2015, about three percentage points lower than in 2010.

In Scotland and Wales, 19.1 and 18.1 per cent of adults smoked cigarettes respectively (declines of more than 5 per cent since 2010). In Northern Ireland, however, 19.0 per cent of adults smoked in 2015, a similar level to recent years.

The ONS data also revealed that men are more likely to smoke than women: in 2015, 19.3 per cent of men and 15.3 per cent of women aged at least 18 years smoked cigarettes. Smoking was most popular among people aged 25 to 34 years (23.0 per cent smoked) and least common among those aged 65 years and over (8.8 per cent). Average consumption among current smokers aged at least 16 years was 11.3 cigarettes a day, a 33 per cent decline since the peak in 1976.

“The smoking ban, increased taxes, putting tobacco out of sight in shops and getting rid of cigarette vending machines have all helped to change attitudes and smoking rates,” George Butterworth says, “but a continued effort is vital.”

“Cuts to public health budgets puts at risk the support smokers need to help break their addiction and successfully quit. It is essential the Government finds sustainable funding for stop smoking services and mass media quit campaigns, and publish the Tobacco Control Strategy for England without further delay.”

Originally Published by Pharmacy Magazine

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