Last updated 2 March 2018 - see all updates
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1. Main facts and figures
the percentage of adults in England who were smokers was 2.4 percentage points lower in 2015 than it was in 2012
in 2015, rates of smoking were highest in the Mixed and White ethnic groups
in 2015, rates of smoking were lowest in the Asian, Black and Chinese ethnic groups
between 2012 and 2015 smoking rates significantly decreased in the White ethnic group
The ethnic categories used in this data
For this data, the number of people surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following broad groups:
- Other ethnicity
2. Adult smokers by ethnicity
Summary of Adult smokers Adult smokers by ethnicity Summary
3. Adult smokers by ethnicity over time
Summary of Adult smokers Adult smokers by ethnicity over time Summary
The Annual Population Survey has a sample size of approximately 290,000 respondents. Interviews are carried out either on a face-to-face basis or on the telephone.
Surveys collect information from a random sample of the target population to make generalisations (reach 'findings’) about everyone within that population.
For those findings to be reliable, the sample of people should ideally contain the same mix of age, gender and regional location as the target population.
Where this isn’t the case (because some people haven’t responded, for example) analysts use statistical tools to ‘weight’ the data. Weighting rebalances the survey responses so they represent the target population more accurately. They can then be used to reach meaningful conclusions.
The APS datasets are weighted to reflect the size and composition of the general population, by using the most up-to-date official population data. Weighting factors take account of the design of the survey (which does not include communal establishments) and the composition of the local population by age and gender. The weights for other sample members are then adjusted to compensate for this.
Confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available in the download the data section.
Based on APS data, it’s estimated that 16.9% of adults were current smokers in England in 2015.
The APS data is based on the responses of a sample of adults in England rather than all adults in England. This measure makes a reliable estimate of the percentage of adults in England who were current smokers at the time of the survey, but it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.
It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 16.7% and 17.1% of all adults in England were current smokers in 2015. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall between the upper and lower confidence interval. But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.
The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, fewer adults from the Chinese ethnic group responded to the survey than White adults, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group. This greater uncertainty is expressed by a wider confidence interval, for example of between 10% and 14.5% for Chinese adults in 2015.
All the differences noted in the text are statistically significant. The statistical significance of differences are approximate because they are determined where the 95% confidence intervals for 2 groups or time periods don't overlap.
An example of non-overlapping confidence intervals would be the 2015 results for the Chinese ethnic group, which had a confidence interval of between 10.0% and 14.5%, and the White ethnic group, which had a confidence interval of between 17.4% and 17.8%.
The Normal Approximation method for calculating confidence intervals has been used.
For further details of the sampling method, weighting and confidence intervals visit the Office for National Statistics (ONS) page on the APS quality and methodology information.
Further technical information
Data may be reused referencing the Labour Force Survey (PDF) (PDF opens in a new window or tab)
5. Data sources
Type of data
Type of statistic
Public Health England
Purpose of data source
This data is used by government and healthcare providers to help inform smoking prevention policies and initiatives and measure their success.
Type of data
Type of statistic
Office for National Statistics
Purpose of data source
The Annual Population Survey (APS) is the largest ongoing household survey in the UK and covers a range of topics, including:
- personal characteristics
- labour market status
- work characteristics
The purpose of the APS is to provide information on important social and socio-economic variables at local levels, such as labour market estimates.
The published statistics also allow government to monitor estimates on a range of issues between Censuses.
6. Download the data
This file contains: time, ethnicity, value, upper and lower confidence intervals, unweighted sample size.