Cigarette smoking among adults
1. Main facts and figures
- in 2018, 14.4% of adults in England smoked
- the percentage of adults who smoked was higher than average in the Mixed (20.4%) and White (15.0%) ethnic groups
- the percentage of adults who smoked was lower than average in the Chinese (7.7%), Asian (9.1%) and Black (11.0%) ethnic groups
- from 2012 to 2018, the percentage of White and Asian smokers fell from 20.1% to 15.0%, and from 10.8% to 9.1%
- the percentage of smokers also fell in the other ethnic groups, but due to the small numbers of people surveyed, we can't be confident about how their trends have changed
The ethnic categories used in this data
For this data, the number of people surveyed was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into these broad groups:
There’s a separate category for respondents whose ethnicity wasn’t known.
2. By ethnicity
3. By ethnicity over time
Data on smoking habits in the UK come from the Annual Population Survey (APS). The data on smoking is collected by the Labour Force Survey, which forms a component of the APS.
In 2018, there were 152,816 survey respondents to the question on smoking habits. Interviews are either carried out face-to-face or by phone. The percentages shown were calculated for each ethnic group by dividing the weighted number of respondents who said they currently smoke by the total number of respondents.
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 if you download the data.
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.
Based on APS data, it’s estimated that 14.4% of adults were current smokers in England in 2018.
It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 14.2% and 14.7% of all adults in England were current smokers in 2018. 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 4.9% and 10.5% for Chinese adults in 2018.
Observed differences are considered statistically significant when the 95% confidence intervals for an ethnic group don't overlap with those of the reference group.
The ‘linearised-Jacknife’ method for calculating confidence intervals has been used. Previously the normal approximation method was used, however this was not able to take into account the design of the survey and how this can affect the precision of the estimates. Data from 2012 therefore has been revised using the new method. For further details of how the calculation is carried out please see the [ONS website] (https://www.ons.gov.uk/methodology/methodologicalpublications/generalmethodology/onsworkingpaperseries/onsmethodologyworkingpaperseriesno9guidetocalculatingstandarderrorsforonssocialsurveys). For further details of the sampling method and weighting see the [APS quality and methodology information] (https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/qmis/annualpopulationsurveyapsqmi).
Estimates are rounded to 1 decimal point in the charts and tables. You can see the unrounded figures if you [download the data] (#download-the-data).
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
Measure, ethnicity, ethnicity_type, time, time_type, geography, geography_type, gender, age, value, value type, sample size, confidence intervals (lower bound, upper bound).