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More than a billion fewer cigarettes smoked each year

Monthly consumption has fallen by a quarter since 2011

Around 1.4 billion fewer cigarettes are being smoked every year in England, according to research funded by Cancer Research UK.

The study, published in JAMA Network Open, reveals that between 2011 and 2018 average monthly cigarette consumption fell by nearly a quarter, equating to around 118 million fewer cigarettes being smoked every month.

This decline suggests that stricter tobacco laws and taking action to encourage people to quit smoking are working, the researchers said.

The researchers, based at UCL, looked at cigarette sales data for England and compared this with the monthly self-reported cigarette use of over 135,000 individuals from the Smoking Toolkit Study. They found that the two different methods of looking at how many cigarettes people are smoking provided similar results.

Over the whole period, the average number of cigarettes smoked monthly declined by 24.4% based on survey data and 24.1% based on sales data from 3.40 billion and 3.41 billion a month to 2.57 billion and 2.58 billion, respectively. 

Lead author Dr Sarah Jackson, from UCL’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, said 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%.

“This means that not only are fewer people smoking, but those who continue to smoke are smoking less,” she explained.

George Butterworth, senior policy manager at Cancer Research UK, warned that smoking is still the biggest preventable cause of cancer, and certain groups have much higher rates of smoking, such as routine and manual workers.

“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,” he argued.