About 1.4 Billion Fewer Cigarettes Are Being Smoked Every Year In England

  • Researchers analyze recorded cigarette sales and survey data in England between 2011 and 2018.
  • They found that overall consumption of cigarette has declined by almost 1/4th during this period. 
  • Government has committed to making the United Kingdom smokefree by 2030. 

One of the leading risk factors for morbidity and mortality is cigarette smoking. It is associated with numerous deadly diseases as well as a large economic burden.

Governments in many countries are taking major steps to reduce smoking. In Australia, for example, the tax rate for tobacco is increased by 12.5% every year from 2017 to 2020, and sales of cigarettes and tobacco in small packs isn’t permitted.

In order to better evaluate and plan policies to reduce smoking, it’s important to have accurate estimates of how cigarette consumption at a national level is being changed. The estimated figures can be obtained from sales or surveys data.

In a new study, funded by Cancer Research UK, researchers analyzed recorded cigarette sales and survey data in England between 2011 and 2018. The objective was to accurately estimate and compare trends in population cigarette consumption.

Over 115 million Fewer Cigarettes Smoked Per Month

Researchers at the University College London looked at sales data (collective cigarettes sales in England) and compared it with the monthly self-reported cigarette consumptions which were collected over the same period (from August 2011 through February 2018) using the Smoking Toolkit Study.

The survey included a total of 136,677 people. During these 6.5 years, the mean monthly cigarette sales in England was 3.08 billion while the mean monthly cigarette consumption was 2.85 billion based on survey data.

Reference: Cancer Research UK | DOI:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.10161 | JAMA Network 

Over the study period, the consumption of cigarettes declined by 24.1% based on sales data and 24.4% based on survey data. This is equivalent to 117.4 million and 118.4 million fewer cigarettes smoked per month — about 1.4 billion per year — based on sales data and survey data, respectively.

Fewer Cigarettes Being Smoked in England

Sales data and survey data were closely aligned, showing that the overall consumption of cigarette in England has declined by almost 1/4th since 2011. This also indicates that not only are fewer people smoking, but those who have smoking habits are cutting down on cigarettes

At present, about 16% of adults in England smoke cigarettes. This type of studies provides a meaningful basis for policy evaluation and planning. In fact, the English government has committed to making the United Kingdom smokefree by 2030.

Like other research works, the study does have its limitations. For example, it’s possible that either or both the sales data and survey data records may have failed to collect accurate representative samples. Both methods may underestimate or overestimate cigarette consumption.

Moreover, the study only focused on cigarettes and didn’t consider other tobacco or nicotine products, such as cigars and electronic cigarettes. It is not necessary that there is a similar alignment for other product categories.

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Nevertheless, the findings provide the most robust quantification (as of 2019) of reduction in cigarette consumption in England from 2011 to 2018. This reduction will lower the risk of cancers, make people’s immune system stronger, and benefit specific population groups.

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from Indraprastha University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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