Slight fall in smoking prevalence
Percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes: by sex, Great Britain
In 2004/05, 25 per cent of adults aged 16 or over in Great Britain smoked cigarettes, indicating a slight fall in the prevalence of smoking among both men and women since the late 1990s.
The proportion of adults who smoked cigarettes fell substantially in the 1970s and the early 1980s – from 45 per cent in 1974 to 35 per cent in 1982. After 1982 it declined gradually until the early 1990s, levelling out during the 1990s. It then fell smoothly from 28 per cent in 1998/99 to 25 per cent in 2004/05. In July 2004 the Government set a new target to reduce the overall proportion of cigarette smokers in England from 28 per cent in 1996 to 21 per cent or fewer by 2010 – with a reduction from 32 to 26 per cent or fewer among manual occupation groups. In England in 2004/5, 30 per cent of those in manual occupational groups were cigarette smokers, compared with 33 per cent in 1998. Together with the fall in overall prevalence, this indicates some progress towards targets.
While men are still more likely than women to smoke cigarettes, the gap has narrowed. In 1974, 51 per cent of men and 41 per cent of women in Great Britain smoked. In 2004/05, 26 per cent of men and 23 per cent of women were cigarette smokers.
Cigarette smoking continues to be more common among adults aged 20 to 34 than among other age groups. In 2004/5, 32 per cent of adults aged 20 to 24 and 31 per cent of adults aged 25 to 34 were smokers compared with 14 per cent of those aged 60 and over.
As well as being slightly more likely than women to be cigarette smokers, men are also heavier smokers, on average. In 2004/05, men smokers smoked an average of 15 cigarettes a day, compared with 13 a day among women smokers.
The proportion of men who were heavy smokers (on average 20 or more cigarettes a day) fell from 14 per cent in 1990 to 10 per cent in 1998. Among women, the proportion fell from 9 per cent to 7 per cent over the same period. Since then the proportions have remained virtually unchanged.
The proportion of adults smoking fewer than 20 cigarettes a day has been around 17 to 19 per cent of both men and women since 1998.
In 2004/05 just over two thirds (68 per cent) of cigarette smokers in Great Britain said that they wanted to give up, but 55 per cent said it would be difficult to go without smoking for a whole day. Overall, 17 per cent of smokers said they had their first cigarette of the day within five minutes of waking up: this varied according to how much respondents smoked, ranging from only 1 per cent of those who smoked fewer than 10 a day to 34 per cent of those who smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day.