A report released on National No Smoking Day (8th March) revealed that we are all smoking less. There were a few surprises in amongst the survey, most notably about which age category registered the biggest drop. It’s been hailed by health chiefs and anti-smoking campaigners as significant. However, there is further to go to drastically reduce smoking-related illness and death and warning about the rise of vaping.
What the Statistics Say
The survey released last week was based on statistics collected in 2015. It has been a long time coming, but health organisations claimed the results are due to decades of anti-smoking campaigning, tighter legislation and better help for people who wish to give up.
Traditionally, it has always been that the youngest category (the 18-24 age group) smokes the most. Surprisingly, and perhaps the most pleasing for our health, it was this group that registered the biggest drop in numbers. In 2010, 25.8% of 18-24-year-olds smoked compared to 23.5% in 2013 and 20.7% in 2015. Now, the group most likely to smoke are 25-34-year-olds. They too registered a drop from 25.9% in 2010 to 24.6% in 2013 and 23% in 2015.
The group least likely to smoke is the 65+ category. They recorded 11% in 2010, 9.8% in 2013 and 8.8% in 2015.
Why the Drop in the Youngest Group is Significant
The significant drop in the number of young smokers will please the government and health campaigners alike. After all, it’s long been understood that smokers start young due to such factors as peer pressure and a desire to impress. The younger somebody is when they start smoking, the more likely they are to have a long-term habit. Consequently, people are less likely to start smoking when they are out of this age group. The longer somebody smokes, the harder they will find it to give up.
Overall, people are quitting more – and that can only be good news. But it is particularly significant for the youngest group. Not only are they smoking less but those who do smoke are giving up in greater numbers. 23.3% of 16-24-year-old smokers gave up in 2015 compared to 21.4% in 2010. When we look back to 1974, this age group was giving up at a rate of just 13.4%
Why Are We All Smoking Less?
A number of factors have been put forward to explain why people are now giving up smoking more than ever before. Some of these are age-old explanations.
- Cost: Consecutive governments have increased the tax revenue on cigarettes for decades beyond the rate of inflation. Smoking is getting more expensive proportionally and in real terms
- Tighter budgets: People have less money as wages have not increased in line with inflation for around a decade now. People have other priorities and are sacrificing smoking as an expensive habit with no advantages
- Other priorities: Millennials have different priorities than their parents or their grandparents. They are increasingly seeing heavy drinking and tobacco use as an expensive waste of money and would rather put the money towards other things such as a car or travel
- Vaping: It’s not all good news. People of all age groups are vaping more. It doesn’t appear to make up all of the numbers and although many say they vape in order to help them give up other forms of tobacco, if not kept in check it could undo all the good work
Of particular note, the growth of vaping may provide a shift of focus for health chiefs and anti-smoking campaigners in the future, especially if it continues to grow at the rate that it is presently growing.