Record numbers of smokers kick the habit during lockdown

Record numbers of smokers kick the habit during lockdown as 643,000 people in England quit in 12 months – more than DOUBLE the previous year

  • Data from University College London survey shows smoking rates have dropped
  • It comes after experts said attitudes towards smoking changed by pandemic
  • More than 643,000 smokers in England quit in past year compared with 307,000 in 2019

Smoking rates in England have fallen dramatically in the past 12 months, new figures reveal. 

Data from the UCL Smoking Toolkit Study, which regularly surveys households in the country, shows more than 643,000 smokers in England quit in the past year to August compared with 307,000 in 2019.

The figures come after experts revealed attitudes towards smoking had been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

If the trend continues to the end of the year, it will be the biggest drop since 2008-2009 when it plummeted from 24.2 to 22 per cent. 

More than 643,000 smokers in England have quit in the past 12 months, a study by the UCL Smoking Toolkit Study revealed

According to the study, the number of smokers ditching their cigarettes had risen to 8.5 per cent this year- almost double the rate in 2019 which was 4.3 per cent.

Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), told The Sunday Times: ‘The figures are phenomenal. This is a substantial increase, which seems likely to be driven by the pandemic.’

She added: ‘The disruption to daily routines caused by social distancing and stay-athome restrictions may have reduced or eliminated smoking or drinking cues, making it easier to change behaviour.’

Data, which showed smoking in the country was now at just 4.7 per cent, also revealed that an overall 23.2 per cent of those trying to ditch their cigarettes had been successful compared to just 14.2 per cent in 2019. 

The figures comes after Public Health England launched ‘Stoptober’, a drive to encourage smokers to quit their cigarettes for October.  

Smoking was a contributor to the deaths of 77,800 people in 2017, meaning around one in every six people who died had a tobacco-related illness.

Smoking tobacco is the biggest avoidable cause of cancer and is known to produce chemicals which cause at least 15 different forms of the disease.

It causes around 70 per cent of all cases of lung cancer, which has the highest death count of any cancer. 

Government initiatives to cut smoking rates have been introduced regularly over the past 15 years in the UK and health warnings on packaging became mandatory in 2002.

It comes after the Government revealed it was aiming to have the UK 'smokefree' by 2030. (Stock image)

It comes after the Government revealed it was aiming to have the UK ‘smokefree’ by 2030. (Stock image)

The Government is now aiming to have the UK ‘smokefree’ by 2030, wiping out cigarettes altogether.

A study published in August, also by researchers at UCL, estimated that efforts to cut down have been so successful that people in England smoke 1.4billion fewer cigarettes in 2018 than they did in 2011.    

Last month, Scott Crosby, tobacco control programme manager at Public Health England, said: ‘We know that the pandemic has affected many of our lives but also our personal health and vulnerability to illness and we want to see how we can build our immune system. 

‘So there’s multiple reasons for this, obviously being in lockdown with family and friends and not being able to socialise but I think the growing importance of people’s personal health has really increased over that time.

Mr Crosby added: ‘It’s brought it to the top of the to-do list.’