Smoking in the United Kingdom

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Tobacco smoking in the United Kingdom is prevalent among a sizeable minority of the population. Smoking is legally permitted, with certain conditions upon location arising from the bans enacted separately in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is generally recognised that smoking in the UK puts considerable strain upon the National Health Service (NHS) due to the health problems which can be directly linked with smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke. Successive UK Governments have endeavoured to reduce the prevalence of smoking. As part of this commitment the NHS currently offers free help to smokers who want to stop smoking.

As recently as 1979, some 45% of the British population smoked, but this was down to 30% by the early 1990s, 21% by 2010, and 19.3% by 2013, the lowest level for 80 years.[1][2] An annual No Smoking Day has occurred in March since 1984.[3]

Smoking in workplaces and enclosed public spaces has been illegal since 26 March 2006 in Scotland, 1 July 2007 in England, 30 April 2007 in Northern Ireland and 2 April 2007 in Wales.[4][5] On 2 April 2014 the Welsh Government published a public health white paper in which it proposed a ban on the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces.[6] The proposal was supported by the Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services Mark Drakeford citing concerns that e-cigarettes could normalise smoking behaviour for young people and encourage them to take up smoking tobacco.[7][8]

Health Issues[edit]

It has been estimated by Cancer Research UK that smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and early death with around 107,000 people dying in 2007 from smoking-related diseases including cancers in the UK. Around 86% of lung cancer deaths in the UK are caused by tobacco smoking and overall tobacco smoking is estimated to be responsible for more than a quarter of cancer deaths in the UK, around 43,000 deaths in 2007.[9]

The British Medical Journal states that due to the drive to help smokers quit smoking, Britain has the world's largest reduction in the number of deaths from lung cancer. Previously in 1950 the UK had one of the worst rates in the world. The annual number of deaths from lung cancer in 2000 was half of what it was in 1965.[10]


  1. ^ Hope, Jenny (12 February 2014). "Fewer than one in five people are still smokers: Rates fall below 20% for the first time in 80 years". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  2. ^ "Ministers aim to halve number of people smoking by 2020". BBC News. 1 February 2010. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Stoddard, Katy (14 March 2012). "When No Smoking Day was still big news". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Scotland begins pub smoking ban". BBC News. 26 March 2006. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Roxby, Philippa (1 July 2012). "Smoking ban's impact five years on". BBC News. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  6. ^ Listening to you: Your health matters (Report). Welsh Government. 2 April 2014. p. 18. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  7. ^ "E-cigarettes face curb in public places in Wales". BBC News. 2 April 2014. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  8. ^ "Electronic cigarettes may face public ban in Wales". The Guardian (London). Press Association. 2 April 2014. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  9. ^ "Smoking". Cancer Research UK. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Perry, Keith (3 August 2000). "Cancer warning halves deaths due to smoking". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 25 November 2011. 

See also[edit]