Adult smokers

The main facts and figures show that:

  • overall, in 2017, 14.9% of adults said they were current smokers, making this figure the average for England
  • rates of smoking were higher than the England average in the Mixed and White ethnic groups; they were below the England average in the Chinese, Asian and Black ethnic groups
  • from 2012 to 2017, the percentage of adults who were smokers went down by 4.4 percentage points, from 19.3% to 14.9%
  • in the same period, the smoking rate decreased for adults in the White, Black and Asian ethnic groups; it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions about the change for the other ethnic groups because of the wide variation in responses and small number of responses for these groups
Things you need to know

It is unlikely that everyone who was a smoker when they were surveyed responded accurately. This may be because of social stigma that some people attach to smoking or other concerns they may have had when giving an answer. As a result, the findings probably underestimate the true percentage of people who were smokers when they were surveyed.

Keep in mind when making comparisons between ethnic groups that all survey estimates are subject to a degree of uncertainty, as they are based on a sample of the population. The degree of uncertainty is greater when the number of respondents is small, so it will be highest for ethnic minority groups.

In 2017, ethnicity was not known for 0.1% of all respondents. Data for those with unknown ethnicity can be found in the download file. The figures for all ethnic groups combined (shown as ‘All’ in the table and data download) include those with unknown ethnicity.

What the data measures

These statistics measure the percentage of the adult population of England who said they were current smokers at the time they were surveyed, broken down by ethnicity. They are based on the Annual Population Survey (APS) carried out by the Office for National Statistics.

Respondents aged 18 years and older were asked whether they had ever smoked a cigarette (excluding e-cigarettes) and whether they currently smoked. The percentages shown were calculated for each ethnic group by dividing the number of respondents who said they currently smoke by the total number of respondents.

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:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Chinese
  • Mixed
  • White
  • Other ethnicity

There’s a separate category for respondents whose ethnicity wasn’t known.

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

Adult smokers by ethnicity

Percentage of adults who were current smokers by ethnicity

Ethnicity % Survey respondents
All 14.9 158,889
Asian 9.3 9,855
Black 10.4 4,037
Chinese 8.6 797
Mixed 20.5 1,439
White 15.4 140,342
Other 16.5 2,323

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, in 2017, 14.9% of adults in England said they were current smokers
  • rates of smoking were higher than the England average in the Mixed and White ethnic groups (at 20.5% and 15.4% respectively); although the rate for the Other ethnic group also appears to be higher than the England average, the difference and the size of the group were too small to draw firm conclusions
  • rates of smoking were below the England average in the Chinese, Asian and Black ethnic groups (8.6%, 9.3% and 10.4% respectively)

Adult smokers by ethnicity over time

Percentage of adults who were current smokers by ethnicity over time

Ethnicity 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
% % % % % %
All 19.3 18.4 17.8 16.9 15.5 14.9
Asian 10.8 10.8 10.8 10.0 9.4 9.3
Black 13.0 12.0 13.5 11.3 10.3 10.4
Chinese 11.5 10.0 10.9 12.2 7.4 8.6
Mixed 24.9 25.5 24.4 22.4 20.8 20.5
White 20.1 19.2 18.5 17.6 16.2 15.4
Other 18.3 16.3 16.8 16.7 14.6 16.5

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, from 2012 to 2017, the percentage of adults in England who were current smokers went down from 19.3% to 14.9%, a drop of 4.4 percentage points
  • in the same period, the smoking rate decreased for adults in the White ethnic group (from 20.1% to 15.4%), the Black ethnic group (from 13.0% to 10.4%), and the Asian ethnic group (from 10.8% to 9.3%); it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions about the change in smoking rates for the other ethnic groups because of the wide variation in responses and small number of responses for these groups

Methodology

Methodology

The data on smoking habits in the UK come from the Annual Population Survey (APS). The data on smoking is collected on the Labour Force Survey, which forms a component of the APS. In 2017, there were 158,889 survey respondents to the question on smoking habits. Interviews are carried out either on a face-to-face basis or on the telephone.

Weighting:

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:

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 14.9% of adults were current smokers in England in 2017.

It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 14.6% and 15.1% of all adults in England were current smokers in 2017. 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 6.4% and 10.9% for Chinese adults in 2017.

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. For further details of the sampling method and weighting see the APS quality and methodology information.

Rounding

Estimates are rounded to 1 decimal point in the charts and tables. You can see the unrounded figures if you download the data.

Related publications

Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2017

Quality and methodology information

Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

Public Health England

Publication frequency

Yearly

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.

Secondary source

Publisher

Office for National Statistics

Download the data

Adult smokers - Spreadsheet (csv) 5 KB

This file contains: ethnicity, time, value, denominator, lower and upper confidence intervals.