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 193.

    C'mon, let's admit it...It's a dirty addiction with 0 redeeming qualities....I used to smoke for 24 years and there's nothing more 'normalising' than quitting...ban selling the stuff and legalise Cannabis instead, now that'd be worth voting for!

  • rate this
    +28

    Comment number 192.

    As a non-smoker for almost a year, I often wonder why I wasted 42 years doing it. Anyone young reading this, don't start. Anyone smoking reading this - it's really not all its cracked up to be. Do yourself a favour and quit.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 191.

    Drinking alcohol is bound to drop, given that government measures ensure there are less pubs to drink in week upon week. Government won't be happy until we all toe the party line. A bigger bunch of self serving hypocrites I have yet to encounter.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 190.

    I never started smoking or drinking until this coalition was formed.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 189.

    @185

    I might,in fact i would...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 188.

    Anyone know how many cigarettes sold in the UK in 1974 and 2011?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 187.

    Naive, both drinking and smoking all sorts are now going underground.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 186.

    Authority & government never learns one of the most important facts of it's life does it? Above a certain level of required control then the more they seek to control the less control they actually have over something! Short of executing everyone who drinks or smokes there is no way of total control or even accurate knowledge of facts regarding those habits & never will be!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 185.

    184.usedtobeBill
    Just now
    Or simply raise it to over 50's.
    It'll solve the weekend city centre drunken youth problem, the costs of pensions problem.... and I could still pickle myself into an early oblivion.

    +++

    Do you really want to see all those skimpy tops revealing big M&S bras modelled on the Forth Rail Bridge?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 184.

    177.AlexBG
    Alcohol should ONLY be available through strictly regulated off-licences and licenced premises, to over 21's
    //
    Or simply raise it to over 50's.
    It'll solve the weekend city centre drunken youth problem, the costs of pensions problem.... and I could still pickle myself into an early oblivion.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 183.

    @181 - you are poor because you buy too many fags

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 182.

    I think it's comical that when the ban was introduced pubs and restrurants were worried that business would drop. Another survey which cost a lot of money has proved them right. Something that any normal person could have told them for free! Now with all this lost tax revenue I guess the government will have to tax something else. Fizzy drinks tax anyone?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 181.

    BECAUSE WE ARE ALL POOR. WE HAVE BEEN BLED DRY

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 180.

    I quit smoking 6 years ago, and have never been so ill in my life since, Chronic IBS, which is so painful I fall into despair when my GP looks at me and prescribes anti spasmodic pills that don't work, and sends me away, they have no time,or interest it seems in addressing the underlying causes, as they need to keep expenses down to a minimum. Yet if I was Royal with a bad tummy, I'd be a priority

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 179.

    I wonder how many of the 1974 smokers would still be here if they had not smoked? However as we live longer we suffer from other ailments. Food has replaced cigarettes and there is more obesity and diabetice etc. you can't win! Just enjoy life why you can

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 178.

    Great news!

    But don't feel too sorry for the evil drug dealing tobacco companies, they're working their 'magic' in other unregulated markets (China, India, Africa). They'll be making bumper profits for generations to come (and ruining lives) before the indigenous population realise that they're a parasite on society pushing addictive harmful drugs.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 177.

    Regarding alcohol - The UK should follow the example set by other countries, and ban Supermarket alcohol sales along with raising the legal drinking age. Alcohol should ONLY be available through strictly regulated off-licences and licenced premises, to over 21's

    Having alcohol so readily available for purchase can no longer be considered a sensible thing - it's a no-brainer really!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 176.

    "the proportion drinking more than four units on their biggest drinking session of the week fell from 46% to 32%" - suggests most could be drinking less than the optimum for their health - Centres for Disease Control stats show that moderate drinking is associated with a reduced risk of all-causes mortality.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 175.

    This subject is getting worse than TV for repeats. Each to their own we all know the health risks so please give it a rest and change the subject to Saturday night being the worst night in to watch TV or water meters or even what did people do before electricity.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 174.

    I've just done a quick phone survey of 10 of the people I know who are normally very honest hard working professionals, out of 10 only 3 said they would honestly say what their habits are if asked by a stranger doing a survey or anyone in authority! Case rested, these surveys are utter rubbish!

 

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