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LONDON, UK: Cigarette smoking rates in England have been in a steady decline since the 1970s, according to the Office for National Statistics. Whereas 45.6% of adults smoked in 1974, just 15.1% did in 2018. New research funded by the charity Cancer Research UK has shown that this effectively translates into 1.4 billion fewer cigarettes smoked each year, or 118 million fewer cigarettes per month.
The study was conducted by researchers from University College London (UCL), who looked at cigarette sales data from 2011 to 2018 before comparing it with the self-reported monthly cigarette intake of participants in the Smoking Toolkit Study.
On the whole, the results of each set of data were closely correlated. The sales data showed a decline of 24.1% for the average number of cigarettes sold monthly, compared with the decline of 24.4% that was recorded in the Smoking Toolkit Study.
Lead author Dr Sarah Jackson, from UCL’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, told Cancer Research UK in an interview: “It’s brilliant that over a billion fewer cigarettes are being sold and smoked in England every year. The decline in national cigarette consumption has been dramatic and exceeded the decline in smoking prevalence. This means that not only are fewer people smoking, but those who continue to smoke are smoking less.”
“Studies like this help to give us an accurate picture of cigarette consumption so we know where we’re at and what more needs to be done,” Jackson continued.
“It’s great news that fewer cigarettes are being sold and smoked,” added George Butterworth, Senior Policy Manager at Cancer Research UK. “Big tobacco said that introducing stricter regulation wouldn’t work and campaigned against it, but this is proof that smoking trends are heading in the right direction.”
“Smoking is still the biggest preventable cause of cancer, and certain groups have much higher rates of smoking, such as routine and manual workers, so we can’t stop here. We need the government to fix the funding crisis in local stop smoking services. The tobacco industry could be made to pay for these services to clean up the mess their products have created,” Butterworth added.
The study, titled “Comparison of trends in self-reported cigarette consumption and sales in England, 2011 to 2018”, was published in the August 2019 issue of JAMA Network Open.