ONS survey: Smoking halves in 40 years

 
Smoking Smoking rates have dropped in the past 40 years

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Smoking in Britain has more than halved and people are drinking on fewer nights of the week, according to a snapshot survey covering the past 40 years.

The General Lifestyle Survey indicates 45% of adults smoked in 1974 compared with 20% in 2011.

The proportion of men who said they drank alcohol at least five days a week fell from 22% in 2005 to 16% in 2011.

The proportion of women drinking five days a week dropped from 13% to 9% over the same period.

There have been repeated campaigns to reduce smoking, which can cause heart problems and lung cancer.

The role of smoking in society has changed significantly, with smoking bans in the work-place coming into force across the UK and bans on cigarette advertising.

Smoking now looks less of a male-dominated habit. Men are still more likely to be smokers - 21% of men now smoke compared with 19% of women. However, back in 1974 the gulf was much larger - 51% of men and 41% of women.

Start Quote

Of those that do drink, the harms are increasing - and they take time to show themselves...”

End Quote Prof Alan Maryon-Davis Kings College London

The statistics suggest married people are less likely to smoke than singles, and the unemployed are more likely to smoke than their neighbours in work.

Older people are more likely to have a regular drink, the data indicates. Men and women aged 45 and above are more likely to drink alcohol on five or more days each week than younger generations.

The most significant changes in the past decade were in 16-24-year-olds.

In young men, the proportion drinking more than four units on their biggest drinking session of the week fell from 46% to 32% between 2005 and 2011. There was a similar pattern in women.

However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures do not look at the amount drinkers are consuming overall. This is thought to be 40% higher now than it was 40 years ago, despite a drop since 2004.

Raising awareness

Alan Maryon-Davis, honorary professor of public health at King's College London, said the figures for alcohol and smoking were very encouraging, but there was still a long way to go.

"There is more work to be done educating the public about the dangers of drink. We haven't got labelling of drinks right and there is work to be done in terms of drinks promotions and the use of social media to target young people.

"There are also issues over price and availability. We need to get rid of really cheap discounts on alcohol."

While hospital admissions for alcohol-related diseases were still high, Prof Maryon-Davis said, there was no room for complacency.

"Of those that do drink, the harms are increasing - and they take time to show themselves."

Commenting on the survey's findings, Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said the significant decline in the numbers of people smoking in Britain over the last 40 years was "a testament to the effectiveness of combined legislation and awareness raising in tackling what is Britain's leading cause of preventable illness and premature death".

But she added: "The uptake of smoking by young people and childhood exposure to second hand smoke both, however, remain areas of concern."

"It is encouraging to see measures such as banning smoking in cars when children are present and introduction of standardised packaging for cigarettes being seriously considered by this government."

 

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  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 153.

    So people give up and live longer. Hence the state pension moves further away from our grasp. Plus tax revenue falls, so other things have to be taxed instead. Again people live longer and are a burden on the NHS. Wouldn't it be more sensible for the government to encourage us to drink and smoke?

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 152.

    Next will be drink, then food. Then they will own us.

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 151.

    post % - You are right
    There is more passive smoking now. In the streets,bus shelters, semi-covered stations, walking past bingo halls etc means passive smoking.At least when they smoked in the pub I could choose to avoid the pub. Leaving a busy rail station is a nightmare for passive smoking

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 150.

    146.wodwo17
    140. usedtobeBill

    How the hell could any government 'target' a problem whose causes are still largely unknown? I think high blood pressure is being researched quite extensively, but there aren't yet any obvious guidelines to give people. Is that state of affairs some sort of official scam, do you think?
    //
    No, but it isn't as widely publicised, is it.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 149.

    I quit smoking 4½ years ago. I do feel better for it and there is still money left in the Bank at the end of the month!!! However the down side is I have gained 4 stone in weight. So the blame police are still on my case firstly because of smoking but being cured of that now for being obese. Still Rome wasn't built in a day just got to exercise more which I can do now that I don't smoke.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 148.

    Now give pubs a chance.
    Lower taxes and end the beer tie!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 147.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 146.

    140. usedtobeBill

    How the hell could any government 'target' a problem whose causes are still largely unknown? I think high blood pressure is being researched quite extensively, but there aren't yet any obvious guidelines to give people. Is that state of affairs some sort of official scam, do you think?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 145.

    I think governments overestimate the success of their measures. The public smoking ban probably did little to deter smokers. Likewise with other 'seen to be doing something' measures like labeling on packets.

    Such measures presume, falsely, that one can force an addict to quit.

    Where they have succeeded is in education. Once people are fully aware of the risks it's then just down to choice.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 144.

    @118 Mark

    Hi Mark - I note your views. I agree UK drivers can opt for unleaded petrol ,car share, cycle, use train / bus etc to reduce emissions - where possible and appropriate - ie disability challenges. Likewise, smokers can choose to smoke in designated areas, at home, not in cars or public. All result in less deaths. Fact remains, passive smoking kills more.Thanks for chat / footy on bye.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 143.

    I smoke baccy £4ish every 2.5 days.£12 a week say.Ive smoked baccy for 30 years.I started smoking aged 14.A 20 of fags cost 84p if i can recall correctly in 1981/2.I gave up smoking fags as they are too expensive.I am a nicotine addict.Its hardly like i need to go to AA...

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 142.

    138.Clive Hamilton
    Just now
    At nearly £7 for a packet of 20 how do people afford it?

    Simple, they buy cheap imports that the government doesn't have the tax off, there's no shortage at all it seems, around where I live you just about have to beat people off with a stick who are trying to sell you cheap gigs, tobacco & booze! I get asked several times a week if I want anything of that kind.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 141.

    We cannot afford it,

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 140.

    The Lancet 05/03/13:
    Smoking is Britain’s highest cause of diseases that lead to premature death. High blood pressure is second, but treatment has barely improved in 20 years..
    Funny how the experts and Government are not as interested in condemning or decreasing the causes of the second biggest killer in the headlines.
    Smoking, such an obvious, easy target.
    Luckily, HYS rants relieve stress.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 139.

    136.thelostdot
    4 Minutes ago
    Finally gradually stopping chewing gum. Haven't smoked for 3 years now.

    +++

    Well Done You! And all the others who have earned their freedom.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 138.

    At nearly £7 for a packet of 20 how do people afford it?

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 137.

    I'm sure I read the other day we are all drinking far too much and now we aren't.

    Next you will telling us we are eating too much bacon!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 136.

    I was able to give up smoking myself using both chewing gum and patches. First of all chewing loads of gum per day. Then gradually reducing that down to 3 or 4 per day over a period of about 3 months. Then I switched to patches, and gum without nicotine, eventually getting down over about 3 months again to just gum. Finally gradually stopping chewing gum. Haven't smoked for 3 years now.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 135.

    @127 The majority are genuine cases, it's the minority scroungers that the government and the press tend to focus on as it makes benefit cuts easier and sells more newspapers.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 134.

    At last people are realising that anybody daft enough to start or lacking the willpower to stop are utterly unemployable today. That is why people stop, plus the sheer cost.

 

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