[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 29 June 2007, 23:49 GMT 00:49 UK
The way the British smoke
Woman smoking
Smokers will have to head outdoors for a cigarette - or stay at home
On Sunday morning, England joins the rest of the UK in banning smoking inside most public spaces - from bars to clubs, restaurants, shops, offices and factories.

Anyone wanting to light up will have to stay at home, brave the elements, or travel to the last remaining bastions of smoking in the British Isles - Alderney, Sark or the Isle of Man.

It's a move that affects most Britons, from the non-smokers happy to leave the pub without smelling of cigarettes, to the millions of puffers whose habits will have to change.


About 10 million people in the UK smoke cigarettes, according to anti-smoking charity Ash. It says a further two million - the vast majority of them men - smoke cigars, pipes or both.

Cigarette smoking rates in decline

In 1948, when surveys were first conducted, eight out of 10 British men smoked - the highest level recorded. Among women the peak was almost five out of 10, in 1966.

The proportion of smokers fell rapidly during the 70s and 80s and continues to decline steadily.

About one in four Britons over the age of 16 now smokes, with the rate slightly higher among men than women.

Sweden, where fewer than one in five people partakes, has the EU's lowest smoking rate. Greece, where almost half the adult population smokes, has the highest.


A person's age, whether they visit pubs and even their marital status is closely connected to the likelihood that they smoke.

Smoking by age group

By age group, it is 20- to 24-year-olds who are most likely to light up, with about a third considered smokers. As people get older they become less likely to smoke, with the rate falling to 14% for the over 60s.

About four out of 10 people who visit pubs smoke, and there is a strong link between smoking and social group, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Manual workers and their families are almost twice as likely to smoke as those with a managerial or professional background (31% compared with 17%). And people living together are twice as likely to smoke as those who are married (35% compared with 18%).

Across the country, the greatest proportion of smokers is found in the North East (30%).


Many smokers start early in the morning. About one third of people who get through more than 20 cigarettes a day light up within five minutes of waking.

Smoker lies on a bed of cigarette packets

Among this group, eight out of 10 people say they would struggle to go 24 hours without a cigarette. Among all smokers, more than half would find the task a challenge.

Nevertheless, seven out of 10 smokers say they would like to quit. The proportion wanting to stop is highest among those who smoke 10 to 19 cigarettes a day. It is suggested many heavy smokers believe stopping would be too difficult.

The average male smoker is thought to get through 14 cigarettes a day, while women smoke 13.


Hundreds of thousands of deaths could be prevented by England's smoking ban, medical expert Sir Richard Peto said shortly before its introduction.

NHS anti-smoking campaign
Anti-smoking campaigns repeatedly highlight the health risks

"Half of all smokers are going to be killed by tobacco. If a million people stop smoking who wouldn't otherwise have done so then maybe you'll prevent half a million deaths."

According to the charity Cancer Research, 50,000 cancer deaths and a further 70,000 deaths from heart disease and strokes are caused by smoking each year. It estimates that six million people have been killed in the past 50 years.

Supporters of a ban argue that it will protect many non-smokers from the effects of passive smoking.

But it has also been suggested that many children will be more likely to be exposed to smoke, as their parents will light up at home instead.


Smoking is good news for the Treasury, with about 4.10 of the 5.50 cost of a packet of cigarettes taken in taxes.

1) Lambert & Butler King Size - 13.5% (Imperial)
2) Benson & Hedges Gold - 7.3% (Gallaher)
3) Mayfair King Size - 7.1% (Gallaher)
4) Richmond Superkings - 6.6% (Imperial)
5) Richmond King Size - 4.9% (Imperial)
6) Marlboro Gold King Size - 4.4% (Philip Morris)
7) Regal King Size - 3.5% (Imperial)
8) Royals King Size Red - 3.4% (BAT)
9) Superkings - 3.3% (Imperial)
10) Silk Cut Purple - 3.2% (Gallaher)
Figures for 2004. Source: Ash

Excluding VAT, this earned the Treasury more than 8bn in 2004-5, Ash says.

Treating diseases caused by smoking is costly, however. The campaign group says the NHS spends 1.5bn a year, including hospital admissions, GP consultations and prescriptions. There are further costs in the form of benefits.

It is thought that about 3,000 people are employed by the tobacco industry in the UK, which is home to three of the five biggest tobacco companies in the world.

While it has been suggested that the smoking ban will hit manufacturers hard, others point out that cigarette prices have already been put up to offset any fall in sales.

"Smokers will continue to choose to smoke," said Imperial Tobacco ahead of the ban.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific