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 (11/12 results published August 2013)aims to give early detection of national trends:

  • less than one quarter (23%) of adults smoked in 2012 which continues a general downwards trend in the proportion of adults who smoke. The 2012 proportion is a 0.4 percentage point reduction on 2011 and 7.8 percentage point reduction on 1999.
  • typically, more men than women smoke (24% and 21% respectively), with the gap widest (five percentage points) between the ages of 35 and 44 years. Whilst younger people more commonly smoke, there is a pronounced drop in smoking prevalence among those aged over 60 years. Among the 60-74 year old group, the proportion smoking is down to 1 in 5 (19%), reducing to less than 1 in 10 among those aged 75 or over (7%).
  • adults in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland are considerably more likely than those in the rest of Scotland to say that they are current smokers (37% and 20% respectively) though the gap continues to narrow year on year.
  • the adults who most commonly smoke are those unable to work due to short-term ill-health (60%), those unemployed and seeking work (51%) and those who are permanently sick or disabled (51%). These overall patterns remain unchanged from the estimates reported from 2011.

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.

Men

Women

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]

Social inequalities

  • there was a clear association between smoking prevalence and socioeconomic classification. People living in semi-routine and routine households were more than twice as likely as those living in managerial and professional households to report that they smoked (36% compared with 15%)
  • smokers in semi-routine and routine households also had the highest mean number of cigarettes smoked per day (15.1 cigarettes)
  • for both men and women, smoking rates steadily increased as household income decreased. People in the lowest household income quintile were almost three times as likely as those in the highest income group to report that they smoked cigarettes (40% compared with 14%). However, there was no significant variation in the number of cigarettes smoked per day
  • four in ten adults living in the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland reported smoking cigarettes compared with just one in ten of those living in the 20% least deprived areas. The mean number of cigarettes smoked per day by smokers also increased in line with deprivation from 12.3 cigarettes in the least deprived quintile to 15.2 cigarettes in the most deprived group.The 2011 Scottish Health Survey [accessed 29 September 2012]
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  • the adults who most commonly smoke are those unable to work due to short-term ill-health (60%), those unemployed and seeking work (51%) and those who are permanently sick or disabled (51%). These overall patterns remain unchanged from the estimates reported from 2011.
  • adults in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland are considerably more likely than those in the rest of Scotland to say that they are current smokers (37% and 20% respectively). Looking across from the 10% most deprived to the 10% least deprived areas shows a trend of generally decreasing smoking prevalence rates. Around one in ten adults living in the 10% least deprived areas of Scotland smoke, compared to around two-fifths of adults (39%) in the most deprived areas.
  • smoking causes and exacerbates a number of chronic respiratory diseases and cardio-vascular disease, and can worsen the health of people with long-term conditions such as asthma. Smokers are less likely than non-smokers to describe their health as 'good' or 'very good' (62% and 77% respectively) while 11% of smokers say their health is 'bad' or 'very bad' compared with 5% of non-smokers.
    Source: The Scottish Government. 2011/2012 Scottish Household Survey. [accessed  29 August  2013]