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 24 September 2013) 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 2012 survey reported that:

  • in 2012, one in four adults (aged 16 and above) was a current cigarette smoker. No difference was found between men and women (25% and 24% respectively), although smoking did vary by age, with the highest rate among adults aged 25 to 44 (29%).
  • smoking prevalence among those aged 16 to 64 declined between 1995 and 2012 (from 35% to 27%). The decline has been steeper for women (from 36% to 26%) than for men (from 34% to 28%).
  • there has also been a decline in smoking among all adults aged 16 and above since 2003 (from 28% to 25% in 2012).
  • smokers smoked an average of 13.5 cigarettes per day in 2012 (14.7 for men and 12.4 for women). The average number smoked rose with age from 8.9 among those aged 16-24 to 16.0 among those aged 55-64, after which it fell to 11.7 among those aged 75 and over.
  • the average number of cigarettes smoked per day has declined over time. In 1995 male smokers (aged 16 to 64) smoked an average of 18.1 per day; by 2012 this was 14.7. The equivalent figures for women were 15.4 and 12.3 respectively.
  • the decline in the average number of cigarettes smoked was also evident for all adults aged 16 and above. In 2003 adults smokers smoked an average of 15.3 cigarettes per day; by 2012, this was 13.5.

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]