People in England smoked 1.4BILLION fewer cigarettes in 2018 than 2011

People in England smoked 1.4BILLION fewer cigarettes in 2018 than they did in 2011 as study suggests Government crackdown on the killer habit has worked

  • Proportion of people who smoke has dropped by 15 per cent in the same time
  • Smoking is directly linked to at least 15 cancers and is a top public health target
  • In 2018, 2.58billion cigarettes were smoked each month – down from 3.41bn

People in England now smoke 1.4billion fewer cigarettes each year than they did at the beginning of the decade.

Research suggests tougher rules on cigarette packaging and advertising, as well as the indoor smoking ban, have worked.

Around one in seven people in England smoke – but a study found they use 24 per cent fewer cigarettes than people did seven years ago.

The average number of cigarettes smoked each month fell by 118million per month between 2011 and 2018, amounting to 1.42billion fewer each year.

The number of cigarettes smoked in England fell from 3.41billion per month in 2011 to 2.58bn per month in 2018, a study funded by Cancer Research UK found (stock image)

Scientists at University College London, alongside Cancer Research UK, analysed sales figures and surveys of around 135,000 members of the public.

They found that in 2011 people smoked around 3.41billion cigarettes each month but this fell by almost a quarter to 2.58billion by 2018.

‘It’s brilliant that over a billion fewer cigarettes are being sold and smoked in England every year,’ said Dr Sarah Jackson, from UCL’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group.

‘The decline in national cigarette consumption has been dramatic and exceeded the decline in smoking prevalence, which, over the same time period, was around 15 per cent.

‘This means that not only are fewer people smoking, but those who continue to smoke are smoking less.’ 

Smoking is the biggest avoidable cause of cancer and is known to produce chemicals which cause at least 15 different forms of the disease.

On average, the number of cigarettes smoked in England each month fell by 118million per month between September 2011 and December 2017

On average, the number of cigarettes smoked in England each month fell by 118million per month between September 2011 and December 2017


The UK Government will aim to end smoking in England by 2030 as part of a range of measures to address preventable ill health.

Its green paper, released in July, said more needs to be done to improve public health. 

The paper read: ‘Thanks to our concerted efforts on smoking, we now have one of the lowest smoking rates in Europe. 

‘Yet, for the 14 percent of adults who still smoke, it’s the main risk to health.

Smokers are disproportionately located in areas of high deprivation. In Blackpool, one in four pregnant women smoke. In Westminster, it’s one in 50.’ 

The paper proposed offering stop-smoking help to all cigarette users who are admitted to NHS hospitals. 

It said it wants to reduce the smoking rate to 12 per cent by 2022 and to zero by 2030. 

‘This includes an ultimatum for industry to make smoked tobacco obsolete by 2030,’ the paper added, ‘with smokers quitting or moving to reduced risk products like e-cigarettes.’ 

It causes around 70 per cent of all cases of lung cancer, which has the highest death count of any cancer.

People are drawn to smoking because nicotine can make them feel good, but it’s easy to become addicted and very difficult to quit once smoking becomes a habit.

Around 7.4million people in the UK regularly smoke tobacco, along with about a billion people – mostly men – worldwide.

Government initiatives to cut smoking rates have been introduced regularly over the past 15 years in the UK.

Health warnings on packaging became mandatory in 2002, adverts were banned in 2003, smoking indoors was banned in 2007, and in 2017 all branded packaging had to be replaced with plain greenish-brown boxes.

‘Big tobacco said that introducing stricter regulation wouldn’t work and campaigned against it,’ said Cancer Research UK’s George Butterworth.

‘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 and think job done.

‘Last month the government committed to making the UK smokefree by 2030. But stop smoking services, which give smokers the best chance of quitting, have been subject to repeated cuts in recent years.

‘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.’

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: ‘The significant decline in tobacco consumption is excellent news. 

‘However, there’s still a long way to go to realise the Government’s ultimatum to the tobacco industry to make smoked tobacco obsolete and England smoke-free by 2030. 

‘The Government has also said it is open to a “polluter pays” approach for tobacco control, something the public health community has been demanding for years.

‘The tobacco industry does the damage – it should pay to put it right.’

The research was published in the journal JAMA Network Open.