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  » Smoking and health effect  »  Smoking Statistics: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Socio-demographic characteristics
Population 1990 1995 2025
Total 57,411,000 58,258,000 61,476,000
Adult (15+) 46,491,000 46,856,000 50,290,000
% Urban 89.1 89.5 93.3
% Rural 10.9 10.5 6.7

Health Status

Life expectancy at birth, 1990-95 : 73.6 (males), 78.7 (females)
Infant mortality rate in 1990-95 : 7 per 1,000 live births

Age-standardized annual death rate per 100,000 (early 1990's)
  Ischaemic heart disease Cerebrovascular disease Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Lung cancer All cancers All causes
Males 300.8 93.2 63.0 85.5 275.4 1,028.2
Females 142.9 82.2 25.1 30.9 183.7 646.9

Socio-Economic Situation

GNP per capita (US$), 1991 : 16,600, Real GDP per capita (PPP$), 1991 : 16,340
Average distribution of labour force by sector, 1990 - 92 : Agriculture 2%; Industry 28%; Services 70%

Tobacco production, trade and industry

Agriculture The United Kingdom (UK) does not produce any tobacco.

Production and trade The UK is one of the largest importers of unmanufactured tobacco in the world. From 1990-92, an annual average of around 134,000 tonnes of unmanufactured tobacco was imported, while only a small amount of tobacco was exported. The UK is, after Germany, the second major producer of manufactured cigarettes in the European Union, producing an annual average of 122,000 million cigarettes during the 1990-1994 period. In 1993, the UK imported around 15,000 million cigarettes and exported around 55,000 million cigarettes. In 1993, the UK spent US$ 576 million (0.2% of total import costs) on tobacco imports, and earned around US$ 868 million on tobacco exports (0.3% of export earnings).

Industry The number of people employed in tobacco manufacturing has fallen from about 40,000 in 1980 to 10,600 in 1994. Government revenue from tobacco taxes was US$ 12 billion in 1993.

Tobacco consumption

Cigarettes are by far the most popular tobacco product, representing 92% of the overall tobacco market, including around 10% roll-your-own cigarettes. Annual adult per capita consumption of cigarettes (including roll-your-own cigarettes) peaked in the 1970s, at 3,470 in 1973. Since then, it has declined fairly steadily to an annual average of 2,210 cigarettes in the 1990-1992 period. Roll-your-own cigarettes contain less tobacco in the UK compared to other European countries. This has been accounted for in the consumption estimates.

A flourishing trade in smuggled cigarettes developed during the early 1990s, due partly to high relative prices of cigarettes in the UK. As this can not be quantified accurately, the consumption estimates presented do not include the consumption of legal and illegal cross border sales.

Consumption of Manufactured Cigarettes
  Annual average per adult (15+)
1970-72 3,250
1980-82 2,740
1990-92 2,210

Tar/nicotine/filters In 1992, almost 100% of the manufactured cigarettes produced in the UK were filter-tipped, but only 88.5% of the cigarettes consumed were manufactured filter-tipped, with 10% consumed as roll-your-own cigarettes and 1.5% as plain cigarettes. Sales of low tar products are increasing steadily, representing 20% of sales during the early 1990s. EU legislation on tar level has been implemented into the British law.

Relative cost of cigarettes In 1992, the average hourly gross salary for an industrial worker was US$ 10.00, enough to buy 2.6 packs of cigarettes. Thus, it would take around 23 minutes of labour to purchase a pack of 20 cigarettes. From 1987 to 1993, the real price of tobacco (accounting for inflation effects) increased by 9.7%.


Adult smoking rates are continuing to fall in the United Kingdom. In 1994, smoking prevalence (age 16+) was 28% among males and 26% among females. This is a reduction from 1980, when 42% of males and 37% of females smoked.

Tobacco use among population sub­groups Data for 1992 indicate that smoking is the lowest amongst professionals (14% M; 13% F) and employees and managers (23% M; 21% F) and is highest in unskilled manual labour (42% M; 35% F).

Age patterns Although there has been a constant decrease in overall prevalence of smoking, this has not been mirrored in the smoking rates among teenagers and children. Smoking rates among 11 to 15 years have remained more or less stable in the period 1982­1994, with girls often smoking more than boys. According to a 1994 survey of 11-15 year olds in England, 10% of boys and 13% of girls smoked at least one cigarette per week. A 1993/94 WHO study of 15 year olds found that 21% of boys and 26% of girls in Scotland smoked at least weekly, as did 18% of boys and 26% of girls in Wales.

Mortality from Tobacco Use

At one time, the United Kingdom had the highest rate of male smoking-related mortality in the world. However, this rate has been falling since 1975. Male lung cancer mortality began rising in the early 1930s and reached a peak level (age-standardized) of about 110/10,0000 around 1975. Since then, the rate has fallen by over 25% to around 80/100,000 comparable to the level last recorded in 1959. Estimated smoking-attributable deaths have followed a similar trajectory, rising from 76,000 men in 1955 to a peak of 114,000 in 1975, and subsequently declining to 73 000 in 1995. Currently, a little over 30% of all deaths in middle aged men in the United Kingdom are attributable to tobacco, down from 48% in 1965. One in four deaths to men at ages 70 and over are estimated to be due to smoking. Lung cancer among women in the UK began rising in the 1950s and appears to have reached a peak in the late 1980s. Indeed, since about 1988, the age-standardized lung cancer rate for women has remained constant at around 31/100 000 (and appears to already be declining in younger women). Annual female mortality from smoking in the United Kingdom rose from less than 10,000 in 1955 to almost 50,000 in 1995. On current trends, the annual number of smoking-attributable deaths among women should exceed that for men shortly after the year 2000.

Tobacco control measures

Control on tobacco products Advertising for cigarettes and roll­your­own tobacco has been governed by voluntary agreement since 1971. The agreement, which is reviewed about every four years, controls the content and location of tobacco advertising and promotion and imposes limitations on industry expenditure.

The advertising of cigarettes and roll­your­own tobacco has been banned on television and radio since 1964. Advertising for other tobacco was withdrawn in 1991 in compliance with the EU directive on this subject.

Tobacco sponsorship of sport is regulated by a separate agreement between the tobacco industry and the government The EU Directives on the labelling of tobacco products has been implemented into law. The UK Regulations, however, require warnings on cigarettes packs to cover a minimum of 6% of the surface on which they are printed (as compared to 4%) and for tobacco products other than cigarettes warnings must cover at least 1.5% of the total surface of the pack (as compared to 1%). It is illegal to sell tobacco to anyone below the age of 16. In 1995, taxes on cigarettes represented around 78% of the retail price.

Protection for non­smokers There is no legislation to ban smoking in public places. The government has published in 1991 a "Code of practice" providing guidance for owners or managers of public places. Employers are required by law to make suitable arrangements in work place rest areas to protect non-smokers. There has also been particular action to reduce smoking in the National Health Service, in public places, in taxis, government departments and local authorities.

Health Education The UK government set four targets in "Health of the Nation" in 1992 for the reduction of smoking, including reducing the prevalence of smoking in adults (aged 16+) to no more than 20% by the year 2000, as well as specific goals for youth and pregnant women. In 1994, the Department of Health launched a three year national health education campaign on smoking. The National Curriculum required education about the effects of smoking, and in 1995, the Government issued guidance on the importance of clear smoking policies in schools. Voluntary organizations provide much educational material on smoking. The Health Education Authority (HEA) has contracted with a charity, QUIT, to run a telephone service to advise smokers who wish to stop smoking. The annual National No-Smoking Day is run by a range of voluntary sector organizations. New arrangements introduced into the National Health Service require that physicians wishing to receive payments for health promotion will have to provide advice and support to help smokers quit smoking.