Fewer people quit smoking in recession, figures suggest

Woman holding a cigarette Smoking may not be the first expense people give up in a recession, experts say

Related Stories

Fewer people have tried to give up smoking in England during the recession than did so before, research suggests.

Although it can be an expensive habit, experts say some people rely on smoking during hard times.

In 2007 - before the recession - about 32% of smokers said they had tried to quit within the past three months.

This had fallen to 23% by 2008 and 22% by 2009. Latest figures up to 2010 show only 17% have attempted to quit, says Cancer Research UK.

'Mental energy'

Professor Robert West, director of tobacco studies at the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre, has been tracking the number of smokers and their quitting patterns in England since November 2006, before the ban on smoking in enclosed public places came into force in England in July 2007.

Start Quote

When people are feeling hopeless it is harder to make positive changes”

End Quote Martin Dockrell Action on Smoking and Health

His figures reveal the rate of quitting slowed down when recession hit the UK economy.

Professor West said: "While no-one can be sure about the cause and effect with data of this kind, this could be another very damaging impact of the financial crisis.

"Obviously we can only guess at a link, but we know that when people are under stress and have bad things going on in their lives they shorten their horizons and focus on getting through, day to day.

"They don't have the mental energy to focus on doing things that are hard, like quitting smoking."

Even though smoking costs money, Professor West said cigarettes were not always the first "luxury" to go.

"It's sad but true that people give up other things instead.

"Even when people are short of money we know that they can spend about 20% of their disposable income on cigarettes or tobacco."

Call for action

He said his studies showed more people were moving away from brand cigarettes to cheaper hand-rolled tobacco.

Martin Dockrell of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said: "A 20-a-day smoker spends over £2,500 on cigarettes a year so there's never been a better time to quit.

Start Quote

Action to tackle smoking is a priority for the Government”

End Quote A Department of Health spokesman

"When people are feeling hopeless it is harder to make positive changes.

"Smoking already hits the poorest hardest and half the gap in life expectancy is down to smoking.

"If the government is serious about bridging that gap they will need an ambitious plan that helps smokers to quit and make it harder for manufacturers to recruit our young people."

Professor West said GPs also had an important role to play in helping people to quit smoking.

"They should be offering smoking cessation services to all their patients who are smokers. There is plenty of funding for these services but they are not being used as much as they should be."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Smoking remains the single biggest cause of premature death in England and action to tackle smoking is a priority for the Government.

"We will be outlining our plans in the forthcoming Public Health White Paper later this year.

"Any smoker who wants to quit can get free support from the NHS. More information is available at the NHS SmokeFree website or by calling the Smoking Helpline on 0800 022 4332."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Health stories

RSS

Features

  • HandshakeKiss and make up

    A marriage counsellor on healing the referendum hurt


  • Pellet of plutoniumRed alert

    The scary element that helped save the crew of Apollo 13


  • Burnt section of the Umayyad Mosque in the old city of AleppoBefore and after

    Satellite images reveal Syria's heritage trashed by war


  • Steve Barker in his studio in BlackburnCult music

    How did a Lancashire radio show get a global following?


  • Woman on the phone in office10 Things

    The most efficient break is 17 minutes, and more nuggets


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.