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
    +1

    Comment number 173.

    162. Bigglerum
    Imagine what we could do if the applied the same social changes to a few other public attitudes.

    See Stalin (Joseph) for a list of exciting ideas.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 172.

    170.Joe Yellow
    3 Minutes ago
    Umm, just trying to look for a immigrant link for the resident UKIP lot, maybe foreigners smoke less??

    +++

    The tobacco market is doing very well in countries where smoking is seen as being modern (like drinking expensive fizzy sugary pop instead of local fruit juice).

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 171.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 170.

    Good to see! Maybe the ban on smoking in bars etc was a success, I wasn't expecting this. I thought more people smoked these days.

    Umm, just trying to look for a immigrant link for the resident UKIP lot, maybe foreigners smoke less??

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 169.

    I'll let the Beeb present another view on this one...
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21608737

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 168.

    Another bunch of Statistics to be taken with a pinch of salt, People just do not admit to their vices anymore, they have been so vilified and marginalised over the years by Nanny and ANTZ, I bet the truth is more drinking and smoking goes on at home.
    Sorry to mention the Salt that is not PC either.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 167.

    this is all nuts, because my smoking rate has mysteriously doubled and I drink like a fish. Something funny is going on.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 166.

    160.U14568146
    6 Minutes ago
    my drinking has quadrupled and thats down to stress at work,
    being a civil servant is no walk in the park .


    +++

    I'm under stress as I don't know whether I am employed, sacked, redundant or what. Sometimes my drinking is an infinite multiple of what it usually is.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 165.

    OK so we're stopping smoking and stopping drinking. We're not being very public-spirited, are we, it's no wonder the country's in debt, we're not paying enough in tax :(

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 164.

    The only thing constantly increasing tax on certain things has done is produce a VERY LUCRATIVE black market for those items as it always has & will, there's not much you can't get even if it's banned & illegal, the point about alcohol & tobacco is that it's been over taxed & in doing so the government has not only cut their own throat but also that of genuine retailers as it was warned it would!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 163.

    the minimum alcohol price will not make a difference. look at the cars outside schools in the morning that have travelled less than a mile despite the cost of petrol..those that want to, will carry on doing as they choose regardless of the health or monetary costs.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 162.

    If this survey is a true reflection of the truth it is fantastic change in social habits in comparatively short time.

    Imagine what we could do if the applied the same social changes to a few other public attitudes.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 161.

    I wonder if the drop in both males and females drinking on 5 or more nights is connected to the lack of customers that has lead to closures of Pubs. As simple as that! Just a change in lifestyle.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 160.

    my drinking has quadrupled and thats down to stress at work,
    being a civil servant is no walk in the park .
    the government is trying to find an easy cheap way to get rid of two thirds of us without paying us off so they are attacking our conditions and looking to trip us up
    the Tory party think the welfare state is an abomination and not of our time,they want it gone and so do labour.
    you will see

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 159.

    155.wodwo17
    150. usedtobeBill

    Agreed, it's an important issue. But can you just imagine the headlines: 'Serious health problem under investigation - no answers yet!' I can't see it selling many papers.
    //
    Agree too, but such lack of info has never stopped the BBC from publishing things before!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 158.

    How about giving Britain's schools some credit? There have been falls in class A drug use, drinking, teenage pregnancies and smoking. The media is always telling teachers how useless they are but in these areas it is clear that schools are getting better at getting messages across.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 157.

    Drinking down, my a***! Forty years ago you wouldn't see booze in supermarkets, now it fills half the stores. And if it's down, why does the BBC keep running features about how it's killing us and nightmare Saturday nights in our cities? They're not bingeing on fizzy pop. As for smokers, you don't see them much anymore because they're out in the cold, but they're there with their smuggled tobacco.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 156.

    Mhadaidh@151 "There is more passive smoking now."

    In terms of 'dangerous' passive smoking I'd say there's far less. Banning it in pubs/clubs protected those most at risk, which were those forced to work in smoky environments.

    A whiff of cigarette smoke for a few minutes at a bus stop or station isn't going to do you any harm. You may still find it "offensive" of course, but so are many things.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 155.

    150. usedtobeBill

    Agreed, it's an important issue. But can you just imagine the headlines: 'Serious health problem under investigation - no answers yet!' I can't see it selling many papers.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 154.

    How does someone like me who smokes about 6 cigarettes a month show on these categories. Am I deemed to be a smoker and in the same category as someone who smokes 60 a day. Surely the figures would be better saying the number of cigarettes on average each person in the UK smokes. Wouldn't that be a better statistic

 

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