Smoking Trends and Consequences in the UK

Smoking has dropped 45.3%, with much credit to be given to the increasing awareness of the health risks.

Updated: Tuesday 18 January 2022

uk smoking trends

UK Statistics

The United Kingdom is a relative success story today compared to just 60 years ago when an estimated 60% of the population were current smokers. This comprised of 80% of men and 60% of women. Today it has dropped to 14.7% across the population, a 45.3% reduction in smokers with much credit to be given to the increasing awareness of the health risks. Data released from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) gives a precise breakdown of the habits between men and women across the UK for the last 6 years.

Vapenation in the making?

It seems that whilst smoking as a whole is at all time lows (7.2 million users) another more interesting trend is appearing. Vape users constitute an estimated 3.2 million members of the population and is expected to overtake smoking by 2025 as the main vector for nicotine consumption. Vaping has risen sharply since the invention and commercialisation of the vapes in 2003 that we are familiar with today. Introduced into Europe in 2006 it has spread and snowballed in popularity. This trend is set to continue as current cigarette smokers switch to the healthier alternative alongside many of the youth trying vaping as their first introduction to nicotine… It’s so popular that it’s rumoured children as young as 13 have been vaping in schools across the country! Pharmica does not condone nicotine consumption for under 18s and does not recommend starting unless you are already a smoker looking for a healthier alternative.

Environmental consequences of smoking waste

Aside from the obvious health consequences of smoking also has a tremendous impact on the environment, with an estimate of over 4.5 trillion tonnes littered each year globally, 122 tonnes produced per day just in the UK. Cigarette Butts are the most common form of plastic waste [1], made of cellulose acetate, with a single butt containing up to 12000 cellulose acetate fibers. Sadly it takes at least 12 years to degrade but that is not the end of the story, as degradation simply produces a few million distinct microplastic particles for each butt. Cigarette butts constitute the primary litter found on UK beaches, with 3000 butts found in less than a mile of Virginia shoreline [2], this has a damning impact on wildlife, with cigarette butts found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales and a few unfortunate children. Waste from cigarette butts is also able to build up at the lowest levels of the food chain, with microscopic plankton consuming particles they are unable to break down. Cigarette pollution also directly reduces land fertility, reducing the root network weight by 57% and shoot length of some plants by 28% in contaminated areas [3], this is regardless of whether the butt has been used or not, suggesting the primary problem for plants is the plastic and not the toxins leached from the butts. Humans are estimated to consume between 39,000 to 52,000 microplastics every year rising to 74,000 to 121,000 when measurements for breathing are considered [4].

smoking trends in the uk


Sarah Bessell

Written by: Sarah Bessell

Pharmacy Manager

Originally from Australia, Sarah joined the team in 2018 as Pharmica’s Pharmacy Manager. Her job is to manage the dispensary team and the day-to-day running of the pharmacy.

Sarah ensures all our patients receive their orders in a safe and timely manner, and that we continue to provide outstanding patient care.

Find out more about how we ensure the accuracy of our content with our content guidelines.

Is summer the best time to quit smoking?
Is summer the best time to quit smoking?