web analytics

Funding cut threatens to extinguish smoking habits survey

The National Health Service’s £300,000 contribution to the cost of the annual General Lifestyle Survey is to be axed – unless Health Secretary Andrew Lansley decrees otherwise.

The survey provides important information about British smoking habits. If the withdrawal of NHS money goes ahead commentators believe it will mean an end to this vital work by the Office of National Statistics.

Public health experts have warned that the data produced by the survey is critical to developing effective health policies.

The most recent General Lifestyle Survey related to 2009 and showed that smoking was nearly twice as common among British adults in routine and manual occupation groups as in managerial and professional groups. In households classified as routine and manual, 29 per cent of adults smoked cigarettes, compared to 15 per cent in managerial and professional households.

The ONS survey also revealed:

• For the third year running, 21 per cent of the adult population in Great Britain were cigarette smokers, compared to 45 per cent in 1974 when the smoking data were first collected.

• The smoking prevalence difference between men and women had substantially dropped, to 22 per cent (men) and 20 per cent (women) in 2009, from the 1974 level of 51 per cent (men) and 41 per cent (women).

• Prevalence was highest in North West England, where 23 per cent of adults were smokers and lowest in the South West (18 per cent).

• Nearly two thirds of smokers said they would like to give up.

And although filter-tipped cigarettes continued to be the most widely-smoked cigarette, especially among women, there had been a substantial increase in the popularity of “roll-ups”. In 2009, 21 per cent of women smokers said they rolled their own, compared to only 2 per cent in 1990. In 2009, 37 per cent of men smokers rolled their own compared with 18 per cent in 1990.