Published on February 24, 2014 | by Caroline Schmitt


UK’s smoking rate falls to lowest point in decades

Burnt out cigarette

Less than one fifth of UK adults in the UK are smokers, according to a study by UCL. [Teral Atilan]

The number of adult smokers in the UK has decreased to under 20 per cent for the first time in decades.

A national survey carried out by The Health Behaviour Centre at University College London found only 19.3 per cent of adults have smoked in 2013, down from 55 per cent in 1962.

According to Ash, a charity dedicated to taking action on smoking and health, the UK has seen the number of smokers aged 16 to 24 decrease from 26.5 per cent in 1999 to 22 per cent in 2012.

Peter Nevett, a 26 year old bartender at CSM’s Platform Theatre Foyer Bar and ex-smoker, has also observed that less students would go outside for a cigarette now compared to ten years ago. He said: “I think about 15 per cent of students in the bar go out to smoke but, then again, it’s an arts university.”

Explaining his reasons for smoking, Nevett said: “I picked it up at 21 when I was working in a bar in New York. I guess when you’re in that scene you want to fit in. It’s artistic and rebellious.”

Australia, Nevett’s home country, standardised the packaging of cigarettes in 2011 and introduced plain boxes to abolish ‘silent marketing’ for the tobacco industry. “They’ll know if that is having an impact in five or six years, but I’m pretty sure you can already see it,” Nevett commented.

Shock tactic advertising

Following Australia’s lead, Britain has also joined in the fight against smoking by aggressively informing consumers of smoking-related illnesses via graphic photographs and warnings on cigarette packages, and ‘shock tactic’ advertising.

In 2006, the UK banned smoking in bars, clubs and other public spaces. A recent parliamentary suggestion by the Labour Party has controversially urged the government to ban smoking in cars carrying children.

“I’m glad I stopped, both for health and financial reasons. The smell is also really off-putting.” Peter Nevett

Yanting Liu, an MA Textile Design student at Chelsea, said: “I don’t mind people smoking, as long as they are not addicted to it. I’ve only smoked once in my whole life because I choose to be live healthy and [want] to encourage my dad to quit because he is a heavy smoker.”

An increasingly popular alternative to real cigarettes are electronic cigarettes. By leaving out the tobacco, which is said to cause one in four UK cancer deaths, e-cigarettes are almost certainly less harmful.

Speaking about his decision to stop smoking entirely, Nevett said: “I’m glad I stopped, both for health and financial reasons. The smell is also really off-putting – when my girlfriend has smoked during a night out, I always go, ‘can you clean your teeth please?’”


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