Tobacco Control: Trends

The overall prevalence of smoking in England has been around 21% since 2007. The prevalence of cigarette smoking fell substantially in the 1970s and the early 1980s, from 45% in 1974 to 35% in 1982. The rate of decline then slowed, with prevalence falling by only about one percentage point every two years until 1994, after which it leveled out at about 27% before resuming a slow decline in the 2000s6.

The smoking prevalence difference between men and women has substantially dropped to 22 per cent (men) and 20 per cent (women) in 2009, from the 1974 level of 51 per cent (men) and 41 per cent (women)21.

Figure 2 - The Percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes by gender: Great Britain 1974 to 2005

Source: General Household Survey 2005

Throughout the period in which the General Lifestyle Survey has been monitoring cigarette smoking, prevalence has been higher among men than women and this continues to be the case, with 22% men and 20% women smoking in 2009. In 1974, 51% of men smoked cigarettes, compared with 41% of women. Since the early 1990s there has been an increase in the proportion of women taking up smoking before the age of 16. In 1992, 28% of women who had ever smoked started before the age of 16. In 2009 the corresponding figure was 37%. There has been little change since 1992 in the proportion of men who had started smoking regularly before the age of 16.

Since the early 1990s, the prevalence of cigarette smoking has been higher among those aged 20 to 34 than among those in other age groups. In 2009, 25% 16 – 24 year olds and 29% of 25 - 34 year olds were current smokers. Smoking prevalence continues to be lowest in those aged over 60 years at 14%. Since the survey began, it has shown considerable fluctuation in prevalence rates among those aged 16 to 19 years. However, this is mainly due to the small sample size in this age group and has occurred within a pattern of overall decline in smoking prevalence in this age group from 31% in 1998 to 25% in 2009.

Socio–economic status
In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the prevalence of cigarette smoking fell more sharply among those in non-manual than in manual groups, so that differences between the groups became proportionately greater8.

The proportion of cigarette smokers in the general population fell to 24% of men and 23% of women in 2004, from 27% for both in 1999. Among Black Caribbean men and Irish men and women, cigarette smoking was also less prevalent in 2004 than in 1999. The prevalence in Black Caribbean men fell to 25% in 2004 from 35% in 1999, in Irish men to 30% in 2004 from 39% in 1999, and in Irish women to 26% in 2004 from 33% in 1999. For all other minority ethnic groups no differences were observed. Questions about use of chewing tobacco were asked of South Asian (Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi) informants. Use of chewing tobacco was most prevalent among the Bangladeshi group, with 9% of men and 16% of women reporting using chewing tobacco. Among Bangladeshi women, use of chewing tobacco was greatest among those aged 35 and over (26%). Among men, there was no difference in use of chewing tobacco by age.

Smoking in Lewisham
It is not possible to document the trend in smoking prevalence in Lewisham, however it is likely that smoking prevalence has decreased in Lewisham as it has in England. The research produced by the University of Portsmouth, linking deprivation with smoking levels gave an estimated smoking prevalence for Lewisham of 33% for current smokers in 2006. More recent different sources, as stated above estimate smoking prevalence to be lower, ranging from 17% to 24%.

Stopping smoking
Nearly two thirds of smokers said they would like to give up in 2009. The proportion wanting to give up has decreased from 72 per cent in 2000 to 63 per cent in 200922.




  1. Smoking and drinking among adults, 2009, Office for National Statistics as part of the General Lifestyle Survey
  2. ibid.




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