Thursday, March 24, 2011


Tobacco use remains one of our most significant public health challenges. While rates of smoking have continued to decline over the past decades, 21 per cent of adults in England still smoke. Smoking prevalence has fallen little since 2007 and we need to take new action to drive prevalence down further.

While in the past more men than women smoked, today the prevalence of smoking is about the same for men and women.ii Smoking rates vary considerably between different social groups and it is most common among people who earn the least, and least common among people who earn the most. In recent times, smoking has become one of the most significant causes of health inequalities.

Smoking is the primary cause of preventable morbidity and premature death, accounting for 81,400 deaths in England in 2009, some 18 per cent of all deaths of adults aged 35 and over.ii In 2009, a larger proportion of men than women died from smoking-related diseases, reflecting the higher rates of smoking by men in the past.

Smoking is a major cause of health inequalities. Although the number of deaths from smoking is declining, rates remain much higher in the north than in the south of Englandiii and among lower income groups. Reducing the prevalence of smoking in disadvantaged groups and areas is one of the fastest ways to increase life expectancy and to reduce smoking-related ill health.

Smoking is harmful not only to smokers but also to the people around them. Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic or toxic.

In England, deaths from smoking are more numerous than the next six most common causes of preventable death combined (i.e. drug use, road accidents, other accidents and falls, preventable diabetes, suicide and alcohol abuse).

Smoking causes a range of illnesses, most of which only become apparent after many years of smoking. In 2009, around 35 per cent of all deaths in England from respiratory diseases and 29 per cent of all cancer deaths were attributable to smoking. Smoking also accounted for 14 per cent of deaths from circulatory diseases and 6 per cent of deaths from diseases of the digestive system.