Smoking rates - adults (16+)

Surveys vary in their methodology, sample size, and in the age ranges they cover, and their results may not be directly comparable.

The Scottish Health Survey (published 02 December 2014) offers the most robust statistical analysis of adult smoking rates in Scotland based on sample size. It is restricted to the age range 16-74.  The 2013 survey reported that:

  • the decline in cigarette smoking continued in 2013 with a significant drop in the percentage of adults reporting that they smoked cigarettes since 2012 (from 25% to 21%). This decline was not matched in the Scottish Household Survey. Future years of data from both surveys will be required to determine whether this reduction is due to sampling variation or represents a true decrease in the last year.
  • men remain significantly more likely than women to smoke cigarettes (23% and 20%, respectively, in 2013). Smoking prevalence was highest among those aged 25 to 54 (24-25%).
  • a new target has been set to reduce children's reported exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke in the home to 6% by 2020. The figure for 2013, 11%, was not significantly different to exposure levels in 2012 (12%).
  • one in seven (14%) non-smoking adults (aged 16 and above) reported being exposed to second-hand smoke in their own or in someone else's home in 2013, while 17% reported being exposed to smoke in any public place.
  • non-smokers' (aged 16-74) exposure to tobacco smoke in their own or others' homes has declined over the years (from 33% in 1998 to 15% in 2013) but did not change significantly between 2012 and 2013.
  • younger adult non-smokers remain most likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke in their own or someone else's home (31% of non-smokers aged 16-24), and in any public place (35%).

The Scottish Household Survey (12/13 results published August 2014)aims to give early detection of national trends:

  • twenty-three per cent of adults were current smokers in 2013, in line with the proportion in the two previous years following a longer term downward trend
  • more men than women smoke (25 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively), with the gap widest (nine percentage points) between the ages of 35 and 44 years
  • adults in the 15 per cent most deprived areas of Scotland were considerably more likely than those in the rest of Scotland to be current smokers (40 per cent and 20 per cent respectively)

The ONS General Household Survey data gives a longer timescale for identifying trends, and allows for a comparison with overall smoking prevalence in Great Britain.

Smoking prevalence amongst adults in the UK fell from 19.8% in 2012 to 18.7% in 2013. Scotland reported the highest proportion of current smokers in the UK at 21.1% and England had the lowest at 18.4%. The survey also found that smoking prevalence was substantially lower in females (16.5%) than in males (21.1%).


Pregnancy and new mothers

  • 'The overall percentage of women who report smoking at the time of their first antenatal booking has decreased consistently from 29.0% in 1995 to a new low of 18.1% in 2009. However, it should be noted that the percentage of 'unknowns' has risen from 5% in 1995 to 14.3% in 2009 and that this may include a proportion of smokers. There is known to be considerable under-reporting of smoking by pregnant women themselves.'
    Source: ISD Scotland, Births, Statistical Publication Notice, 31 August 2010 0[online]. Available from: www.isdscotlandarchive.scot.nhs.uk/isd/6364.html
    [accessed 13 July 2011]
  • 19.5% of mothers in Scotland smoked at the health visitor’s first visit
    Source: ISD Scotland, Births in Scottish Hospitals 2008/9
    Available from: www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Maternity-and-Births/Births/ [accessed 13 July 2011]
  • 29.4% of pregnant women in the most deprived SIMD quintile smoke at booking, compared to 5.8% in the least deprived SIMD quintile.
    Available from: www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Maternity-and-Births/Births/ [accessed 13 July 2011]
  • 73% of BC2 (birth cohort 2 from 1st March 2010 and 28th February 2011) women never smoked during pregnancy, compared with 75% in BC1 (birth cohort 1 in 2005), but a further 9% of BC2 stated that they gave up once they discovered they were pregnant (a response option not offered in BC1).
    Source: Growing Up in Scotland: Birth Cohort 2. Results from the First Year. Scottish Government, 20 February 2013.  Available from:
    www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/02/3280/2 [Accessed 20 Feb 2013]

Main carers (of children)

  • 24% of main carers smoked. This represents a decrease - from 28% - compared with 2005.
    Source: Growing Up in Scotland: Birth Cohort 2. Results from the First Year. Scottish Government, 20 February 2013.  Available from:
    www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/02/3280/2 [Accessed 20 Feb 2013]