NHS warns of increasing cigarette and alcohol consumption

NHS warns of increasing cigarette and alcohol consumption

NHS England has released statistics that show an increase in cigarette, vape and alcohol consumption from the previous year.

Findings from the Health Survey for England (HSE) found that 13% of adults were currently smoking cigarettes in 2022, a slight increase from the 12% reported in 2021. Around 9% of adults were currently using e-cigarettes, though only 2% of those who had never smoked cigarettes used e-cigarettes. This was also an increase on the previous year’s figure of 5%.

The proportion of children aged 8 to 15 who had ever tried a cigarette was 3%. This has decreased from 19% in 1997.

However, 12% of the same age group had used an e-cigarette or vape in 2022, 3% more than in 2021. The proportion was higher among participants aged 13 to 15 at one quarter (25%).

Levels of alcohol consumption in the 8 to 15 age group were found to have decreased in 2022. Around 14% of 8- to 15-year olds had tried alcohol in the survey, down from 45% in 2003.

In the adult age group, 84% of men and 78% of women had drunk alcohol in the year leading up to the survey. However, the proportion of men who had drunk more than 14 units of alcohol in the past week (32%) was more than double that of women (15%). NHS England said that this level of consumption put these respondents at an increased risk of alcohol-related harm. In 2021, the proportion of men who drank to harmful levels was 4% lower at 28%.

Risk factors

Participants were found by randomly selecting 11,340 households across 630 postcode sectors in England between 2022 and 2023. Data collection involved an initial interview followed by a visit from a biomedical fieldworker for those who agreed.

The survey aimed to estimate the number of people in England who have certain health conditions and the risk factors associated with them.

Released on 6 June, the first part of the survey explores adult and child health-related behaviours, including alcohol and tobacco consumption.

‘A cross-government national mission for health improvement’

Layla McKay is director of policy at the NHS Confederation. Commenting on these findings, she said: ‘While it is encouraging to see the continued fall in adults, children and young people who smoke and drink alcohol these figures do raise some concerns. The fact that a higher proportion of adults are drinking at increasing or higher risk levels and more children are vaping is something that health leaders will want to keep a close eye on.’

The survey also addressed the diets of participants. Three in 10 (29%) of respondents reported eating five or more portions of fruit or vegetables in a day, while 7% said they ate none.

Dr McKay called for the next government to make health improvement a priority based on these figures following the upcoming general election. She said: ‘If we are going to tackle the key drivers of ill health and health disparities, health leaders and their teams will need the right support and resources from the next government. That is why we are calling on the next government to lead a cross-government national mission for health improvement.’

The second part of the HSE report is due to be released later in 2024. It will cover adult health, weight and obesity, social care provision and kidney disease.

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