Smoking Prevalence in the UK

For many years, one of the largest burdens on the NHS has been the enormous strain of smokers. Smoking and smoking-related illnesses costs the NHS an estimated £2bn a year, whilst it costs the economy around £11bn a year, which is at a time of an impending economic recession, a huge burn in the nation’s wallet.

Smoking is the largest preventable cause of death worldwide, killing over 8 million people a year according to the WHO (World Health Organisation), with 78,000 of these people coming from the UK. Despite these huge numbers, smoking prevalence continues to steadily decline year on year with 13.9% of the population of England identifying as smokers, a substantial decrease compared to the year 2000 when the average smoking prevalence was 38%.

This could be largely attributed to healthier diets and lifestyle, as well as increased access to cessation programs, cessation products such as e-liquids and vape pods as well as smoking-related information in general. Overall, it goes some way in potentially achieving the government’s rather hopeful target of becoming a smoke free nation by 2030, yet more needs to be done in a relatively short space of time.

In the ongoing campaign to encourage smoking cessation, Vape Club have collated official figures from Public Health England, released on 7th July 2020. The data provides insight into the prevalence of smoking in each local district in England, which remains blighted by high smoking rates, and where in England is doing best to keep the smoking rates low.

The maps below highlight the certain demographics and districts which have the highest and lowest smoking prevalence in England. Corby (27.5%), Dartford (26.4%) and Lincoln (24.8%) have the largest smoking prevalence average in England whilst Hart (3.4%), St Albans (4.1%) and Adur (5.1%) have the lowest in England.

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In general, there is a north/south divide, with the darker shades of higher smoking rates featuring prominently in the north of England, whilst the lighter colours of lower smoking rates feature more commonly in the south.

District Breakdown

The Yorkshire & Humber average smoking prevalence is 15.7%, which is 1.8% above the national average. Kingston Upon Hull & North East Lincolnshire (both 22.2%) are in the top 10 of smoking prevalence national ranking.

London features a smoking prevalence of 12.9% which is 1% below the national average. Amongst the highest districts of smoking prevalence is Barking & Dagenham (18.1%) and Waltham Forest (16.2%). Additionally, the London borough of Hammersmith & Fulham had a quit smoking rate of 7.54%, the highest in the region.

The South East boasts a smoking prevalence of 12.2%, 1.7% below the national average and the lowest in England. The highest smoking prevalence districts in the region are Dartford (26.4%), which surprisingly holds the second highest national rank in England, and Thanet (21%).

The East of England holds a smoking prevalence average of 13.7%, 0.2% below the national average. The seaside district of Great Yarmouth holds the highest regional rank (23.4%), making it the fifth highest district for smokers per population in the UK, closely followed by Fenland (21.9%) which is 8th in the national rankings.

The East Midlands features a smoking prevalence of 15.5%, 1.8% above the national average, with Corby (27.5%) and Lincoln (24.8%) being the highest and third highest,

The North East of England has a smoking prevalence average of 15.3%, 1.4% above the national average. The highest concentration of smokers per population in the district of Hartlepool, which holds a 19.3% average, whilst Redcar & Cleveland holds a respectable quitting rate of 3.74%.

The North West of England consists of a smoking prevalence average of 14.5%, 0.6% above the national average. The highest district of smokers lies in Blackpool (23.4%), which also puts it as 4th in the national rank, whilst Burnley (21.5%) is 9th.

The West Midlands features a smoking prevalence of 14.1% of the population, 0.2% above the national average. The highest district of smokers lies in Tamworth (19.4%), whilst Lichfield (5.4%) is one of the lowest in England.

The South West of England has a smoking prevalence of 14.02%, which is 0.12% fractionally above the national average. The highest districts of smoking prevalence is Plymouth (18.5%) and City of Bristol (18%). Additionally, both Cornwall and North Somerset have a quitting rate of 3%.