Daily use of cigarettes is no longer reducing, researchers warn

Daily use of cigarettes is no longer reducing, researchers warn

A new study from Cancer Research UK suggests that the number of cigarettes smoked daily has stalled after reducing steadily until 2019.

Published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, the study investigates trends in cigarette consumption from 2008 to 2023. Data from more than 57,000 smokers in England was analysed.

Overall, the number of cigarettes consumed each day fell by more than one quarter, with the average smoker consuming 11 cigarettes daily rather than 14. However, the reduction has plateaued since 2019 – the daily average increased by one cigarette in the final four years of the study.

Cancer Research UK said 45.5 million cigarettes are still consumed daily in England, down from 77.1 million in 2011.

‘Consistency in the taxation and regulation across all cigarette types is key’

The researchers also explored the different ways that participants were consuming tobacco. The popularity of hand-rolled cigarettes increased by around 35% throughout the duration of the study. Accordingly, the number of manufactured cigarettes consumed declined by 47%. The authors of the study believe this is due to the affordability of loose tobacco compared to manufactured cigarettes.

Sarah Jackson is lead author of the paper and principal research fellow at UCL’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care. She said: ‘This 15-year study captures shifts in smoking behaviour, showing that while the average number of cigarettes smoked per day has fallen, this trend has stalled since 2019.

‘People are increasingly opting to use cheaper hand-rolled tobacco over more expensive manufactured cigarettes, proving that consistency in the taxation and regulation across all cigarette types is key.’

‘The right side of history’

This comes as MPs have voted in favour of the smokes and vapes bill which would effectively impose a smoking ban for those born after 2008.

Ian Walker, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy, said: ‘This study makes it clear that the UK government must not let up in its fight to reduce smoking. All tobacco products are harmful, and more work needs to be done to end cancers caused by smoking for good. 

‘By voting in favour of the age of sale legislation, MPs have positioned the UK as a world leader in tobacco control. Now, it’s vital that MPs continue to listen to the demands of their constituents and place themselves on the right side of history. The bill must be passed through Parliament swiftly and implemented so we can begin to reap the benefits of a smoke-free future.’

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