More than a billion fewer cigarettes are smoked each year, research reveals – although anti-smoking campaigners argue this number could be higher if Whitehall reverses cuts to stop smoking services.
Between 2011 and 2018, according to Cancer Research UK, average monthly cigarette consumption fell by nearly a quarter. This equates to around 118 million fewer cigarettes being smoked every month.
Over the whole period, the average number of cigarettes smoked monthly declined from around 3.4 billion to 2.5 billion.
‘It’s brilliant that over a billion fewer cigarettes are being sold and smoked in England every year,’ said Dr Sarah Jackson from UCL’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, which carried out the research.
‘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.’
George Butterworth, senior policy manager at Cancer Research UK, commented: ‘It’s great news that fewer cigarettes are being sold and smoked. Big tobacco said that introducing stricter regulation wouldn’t work and campaigned against it, but this is proof that smoking trends are heading in the right direction.’
However, Mr Butterworth warned that services aimed at stopping people smoking have been subjected to ‘repeated cuts’.
‘We need the Government to fix the funding crisis in local stop smoking services,’ he said.
‘The tobacco industry could be made to pay for these services to clean up the mess their products have created.’
Last month, the Local Government Association (LGA) urged the Government to use the forthcoming Spending Review to reverse the cuts in public health budgets.
‘Councils remain committed to helping smokers quit,’ said Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.
‘However, this is made all the more difficult by reductions to the public health budget to the tune of £700m, which councils use to fund stop smoking services.
‘We have long argued that this is a false economy, which will only compound acute pressures for NHS and social care services further down the line.’