The number of smokers in Britain has fallen to its lowest level since records began in 1974, figures published today have revealed.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that more and more people are waking up to the dangers of smoking.
Britons continue to quit smoking in their droves, figures showed, as the popularity of smoking has ‘dwindled’.
According to the ONS, just 17.2% of British adults smoked in 2015 – the lowest level since records began four decades ago.
Five years ago, the figure was 20.1%.
Analysts insisted the prevalence of smoking is reflected by the number of people who have quit.
Among former smokers, 56.7% had quit – the highest proportion of quitters since 1974.
In addition, British smokers are consuming the lowest number of cigarettes on average in more than four decades.
Smokers now consume an average of 11.3 cigarettes a day, 33% lower than when consumption peaked in 1976.
More men than women were smokers in 2015 – 19.3% of men and 15.3% of women smoked.
‘The popularity of smoking in Great Britain has dwindled over the past 40 years,’ the ONS report states.
‘Generally, the prevalence of smoking among the population in Great Britain has fallen and this is reflected in the data on people who have quit.
‘In 2015, of those aged 16 years and above who had previously smoked 56.7% had quit – the highest proportion of quitters since 1974.’
Smoking is more common among people earning less than £10,000 a year and those seeking employment.
The ONS also revealed that 2.3 million people used e-cigarettes in 2015 – half of them use ‘vaping’ as a way to try to quit smoking.
The 18 to 24 age group saw the largest decrease in smokers, although the proportion of smokers in this age group was still higher than the average adult over 18.
Just 8.8% of people aged 65 and over are smokers.
‘The decline in smoking is very encouraging and shows that strong tobacco control measures are working,’ said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the charity Ash (Action on Smoking and Health).
‘However, the government can’t leave it to individual smokers to try to quit on their own.
‘If the downward trend is to continue, we urgently need a new tobacco control plan for England, and proper funding for public health and for mass media campaigns.
‘That’s essential if the prime minister is to live up to her promise to tackle health and social inequality.’