How common is nicotine addiction?

Around 12.5 million adults in the UK smoke cigarettes. That's 20 in every 100 people aged 16 and over.[1]

Many smokers are young. Among secondary school children aged 11 to 15, 12 in every 100 girls and 9 in every 100 boys are regular smokers.[2]

The good news is that a smaller percentage of the population smokes now than 30 years ago. In 1974, for example, nearly one-half of the people in the UK smoked.[3]

Also, people aren't smoking as many cigarettes as they used to. There are fewer heavy smokers (people who smoke more than 24 cigarettes a day) and more light smokers (those who smoke fewer than 15 cigarettes a day).[3]

But this downwards trend in smoking has slowed. The proportion of people smoking has only gone down a little since about 1994.

Here are some figures about smoking.

  • More men than women smoke. But the gap has closed in the last 60 years.

  • In 1948, about 80 in every 100 men and 40 in every 100 women smoked.[4]

  • In 1974, 51 in every 100 men and 41 in every 100 women smoked.[5]

  • In 2006, 23 in every 100 men and 21 in every 100 women smoked.[6]

Smoking is the biggest cause of death and illness in the UK.[7]

  • More than 120,000 people in the UK die each year from a disease that's caused by smoking.

  • One in five deaths in the UK is due to smoking.

  • If you smoke regularly, you have a 50-50 chance of dying from a disease that's caused by smoking.

  • The most common diseases caused by smoking are lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Many other cancers are also linked to smoking.

Last updated: Mar 31, 2014