Official data today show that smoking rates continue to drop in Britain.

According to an Office for National Statistics report, usage decreased from 15.8% in 2019 down to 14.5% last year.

This is the equivalent of 7.63million over-16s, down from a high of just under 27million in the 1970s, when smoking rates were at their highest — with nearly half of all adults engaging in the habit.

Over the last two decades, rates have been steadily falling. Health chiefs declared that 2017 is the year when smoking will be outlawed.

England plans to quit smoking by 2030. The ministers of the country have introduced several policies that will reduce rates. 

Government advisor even called for smoking to be banned on pavements outside pubs and restaurants earlier this year — although the plans were ditched by No10, which sources say felt it had ‘enough on its plate’ at the time. 

Some research suggested that lockdowns, the stress of dealing with the pandemic and a rise of smoking in Britain would cause an increase in those who smoke. This is similar to the way alcohol consumption increased.

A study by University College London and the University of Sheffield suggested smoking increased by a quarter in 18- to 34-year-olds during the first lockdown.

However, the ONS has published the datasets that show otherwise.

The number of smokers aged 16 and over in Britain continued to fall last year, dropping by 1.3 per cent according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data

Smoking dropped to just 8.8 per cent of all respondents in March ¿ when the pandemic started in Britain ¿ the lowest of any month during the year. It rose to 12.5 per cent by December, peaking at 19 per cent the previous January

Smoking dropped to just 8.8 per cent of all respondents in March — when the pandemic started in Britain — the lowest of any month during the year. This rose to 12.5% by December after peaking at 19.% in January.

Overall, smoking rates were highest in people aged 25 to 34 in both genders, with OPN data showing 18.1 per cent of people in the age group said they smoked during the year. The separate survey Annual Population Survey (shown here) also showed smoking was highest in people aged 25 to 34

Smoking rates in general were higher among people between 25 and 34, in both men and women, according to OPN data. 18.1 percent of those in this age group reported that they had smoked in the past year. A separate study, the Annual Population Survey (shown below), also revealed that smoking rates were highest among people 25-34 years old.

Statisticians warned the APS results were less reliable because data collection switched from having a mix of face-to-face and telephone interviews to just telephone interviews during the pandemic. It showed smoking rates dropping across all age groups and in all countries of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland (shown above)

The APS data were not reliable, according to statisticians. Data collection changed from a mixture of telephone and face-to-face interviews to only telephone interviews in the midst of the pandemic. The results showed that smoking rates dropped across all age categories and all of the United Kingdom’s countries, except Northern Ireland.

You could gain weight by quitting smoking 

Another study found that regular smokers are more likely to succumb to the temptation to smoke. 

University of Minnesota researchers asked 42 people who smoke to give up smoking and offer them a selection of snack options.

They were asked about their preferences and then compared them to non-smokers who weren’t asked to quit.

Scientists discovered that those who have quit smoking are most inclined to consume high-fat and salty snacks, like Rice Krispie treat and Oreo caketers.  

They ate up to 30% more calories overall than current and non-smokers.

Experts suggested that this finding suggests that people were looking for calories to help fill their nicotine void.

Professor Mustafa al’Absi, a psychologist who led the study, said: ‘The study’s findings may be related to the use of food, especially those high in calories, to cope with the negative affect and distress that characterizes the feelings people experience during smoking withdrawal.

“Results of preclinical research and clinical studies support this conclusion and show that stress can increase proclivity to eat high-fat or high-sugar food. 

According to the Annual Population Survey (APS), smoking has fallen to 13.8% in the first quarter 2020, and 12.3% for the remainder of the year.   

This survey included 320,000 respondents aged 18 or older. It classified regular smokers and non-smokers as part of its sample.  

The ONS acknowledged that the poll wasn’t reliable. Because of the changes in how data was collected during lockdowns.

The data revealed that smokers admitted to their habit more when they were surveyed face to face than over the telephone or online. This could explain the big drop in the number of in-person interviews.

The low 2020 smoking figures were described as a “sudden, implausible” drop.  

A separate survey showed that rates had fallen. Experts claim that lockdowns did not affect the results of the survey, which was conducted over the internet and by phone.

The Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) showed 14.5 per cent of people in the age group said they smoked in 2020, down from 15.8 per cent the year before. 

This was the lowest percentage since 2000 (27%), when similar weighted samples were first recorded. 

64% of those who used to smoke but don’t currently do so said that they have quit. This is an increase from the previous year, which was only 62 percent. It also marks the highest recorded level. 

Smoking dropped to just 8.8 per cent of all respondents in March — when the pandemic started in Britain — the lowest of any month during the year. The December peak was at 12.5 percent. 

Despite smoking’s harmful effects on the lungs, some studies last year suggested smokers were less likely to die or suffer severe Covid — although subsequent research suggests the opposite correlation.

The fact that smoking causes a host of conditions including cancers and increased risks of heart disease and stroke is well-known.

According to the ONS, smoking among men fell from 17.9 percent to 15.3 percentage points in 2013, and in women it dropped from 13.8 to 13.7 percent. 

This dropped across all age categories for men, but it rose in women between 35 and 49 (from 14.3 percent to 15.1 procent), 50-59 (14.6% to 16.1%) and 60 and over (8.7 percent to 9.1%) 

James Tucker is the ONS’ health analyst and life events specialist. He said that the pandemic had changed how data can be collected.

‘[It’s]This is likely to explain why there has been an unrealistic drop in adult smokers in 2020, according to our main information source, The APS. 

These numbers must be considered with care.

‘Unlike the APS the OPN is contactless. Interviews are conducted online, by telephone, and it provides a better alternative for measuring the prevalence of smoking in Britain. 

According to this study, smokers aged 16 and over saw a decrease in their smoking rates by 1.3% between 2019 and 2020. This decrease in smoking prevalence isn’t statistically significant.

However the OPN data — based on answers from 81,000 people — also showed people were quicker to reach for their first cigarettes last year.

The  proportion of people who have a first cigarette within five minutes of waking up increased from 6.9 per cent in 2019 to eight per cent last year.