How teen smoking rates have fallen EIGHT-FOLD since the 80s amid the UK’s war on tobacco which has made lighting up ‘uncool’ – as interactive map reveals up to a quarter of adults still smoke in parts of the nation

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Teen smoking rates are eight times lower now than they were in the 80s thanks to the Government’s war on tobacco.

Only 3 per cent of 15 year olds in England now smoke, official figures show. 

For comparison, a quarter did so in 1982. Rates fell quickest in the early noughties, according to an historical survey ran by the NHS.

Experts say the introduction of modern anti-smoking laws, like selling cigarettes in plain packaging, are behind the huge fall.

Other tough measures deployed in the past two decades include slapping graphic warning labels depicting their damaging health effects on all tobacco and banning smoking in restaurants, pubs and nightclubs. 

Gen Z are thought to now view the deadly habit as uncool. Social media users tore into model Kylie Jenner when she was pictured smoking on Instagram in 2019. One fumed: ‘She’s smoking. Unfollow — I thought you were cool.’ Another bluntly commented: ‘Stop smoking nasty’ 

Last year, actor Cole Sprouse was branded 'cringe' for smoking indoors during an interview on the Call Her Daddy podcast. Others joked he successfully made smoking cigarettes look 'uncool' and should be the next face of an anti-smoking ad

Last year, actor Cole Sprouse was branded ‘cringe’ for smoking indoors during an interview on the Call Her Daddy podcast. Others joked he successfully made smoking cigarettes look ‘uncool’ and should be the next face of an anti-smoking ad

Gen Z are thought to now view the deadly habit as uncool. 

Social media users tore into model Kylie Jenner when she was pictured smoking on Instagram in 2019.

One fumed: ‘She’s smoking. Unfollow — I thought you were cool.’ Another bluntly commented: ‘Stop smoking nasty.’ 

Last year, Disney star Cole Sprouse was also branded ‘cringe’ for smoking indoors during an interview on the Call Her Daddy podcast.

Others joked he successfully made smoking cigarettes look ‘uncool’ and should be the next face of an anti-smoking ad. 

How dangerous is smoking for the heart? 

How does tobacco damage the heart?  

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including tar and others that can narrow arteries and damage blood vessels.

While nicotine – a highly addictive toxin found in tobacco – is heavily linked with dangerous increases in heart rate and blood pressure.

Smoking also unleashes poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, which replaces oxygen in the blood – reducing the availability of oxygen for the heart.

How many people does smoking kill?  

Smoking is known to kill more than seven million people across the world each year, including 890,000 from breathing in second-hand smoke.

But many people are unaware that nearly half of those deaths, around three million, are due to heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes.

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The latest teen figures, for 2021, suggest just four per cent of boys aged 15 and three per cent of girls now smoke.

This marked a three-fold drop on just a decade earlier, when 11 per cent regularly lit up. 

The sharpest drop came between 2006 and 2012 when total rates halved from 20 to 10 per cent. 

The same policies have also caused smoking rates to tumble in adults.  

Nationwide, only about one in eight people in the UK now smoke. Almost half did so in the mid-70s, according to data compiled by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and NHS England. 

Yet there is still a huge disparity in rates across the country.

Approximately one in four still light up in some local authorities in England, such as mid-Devon (25.1 per cent) and Hastings (23.7 per cent).

But just 2.9 per cent of adults smoke in Stafford (2.9 per cent). 

Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire logged an equally low figure, where just 4 per cent of adults still light up. 

Just seven of roughly 300 local areas currently meet the 2030 ‘smoke-free’ target of less than five per cent.

MailOnline has compiled the smoking data, collected by the Office for National Statistics’s ‘Annual Population Survey’, into an interactive map.

It comes as Rishi Sunak’s bold plan to ban the next generation from ever smoking yesterday moved a step closer to becoming law.

Under the bill, which MPs last night voted to back by 383 to 67, anyone born after 2009 won’t ever be able to legally buy tobacco. 

If eventually passed, it means children aged 15 or younger today will never legally be sold a cigarette. 

Mr Sunak’s flagship smoking proposal also takes aim at vapes.

Ministers would also be handed powers to restrict the flavours and promotion of the gadgets in an effort to thwart the UK’s child e-cig epidemic. 

This could change how nicotine-laden vapes are displayed in shops, moving them away from other products such as sweets. They would be limited in flavours and sold in plain, tobacco-style packaging. 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2023 health report showed 12.7 per cent of Brits over the age of 15 smoke cigarettes daily, far higher than the US and New Zealand, the latter of which recently introduced a similar phased smoking ban

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2023 health report showed 12.7 per cent of Brits over the age of 15 smoke cigarettes daily, far higher than the US and New Zealand, the latter of which recently introduced a similar phased smoking ban

Council officers will also be given powers to dole out £100 on-the-spot fines to shops caught breaking the rules.

The smoking proposals, however, have long been criticised as ‘illiberal’ by critics. 

They also fear that health chiefs may eye up crackdowns on sugar, caffeine and alcohol next, calling the move a ‘slippery slope’. 

Fifty nine Tory MPs — including six Government ministers  — last night opposed the plans. 

Among them included Kemi Badenoch, Steve Baker and ex-Cabinet ministers Suella Braverman, Sir Simon Clarke and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg.

More than 100 Tories also failed to vote, leaving just 165 of the cohort of 347 backing the bill. 

Responding to the ban’s backlash, England’s chief medical officer, yesterday rejected ‘pro-choice’ arguments.

Professor Sir Chris Whitty argued instead that cigarettes were a product ‘designed to take your choice away’.

The Government believes the phased ban, raising the legal age for purchasing tobacco by one year every year from 2027, will lead to 1.7million fewer people smoking by 2075.

It predicts the move will save tens of thousands of lives, and avoiding avoid up to 115,000 cases of strokes, heart disease, lung cancer and other lung diseases. 

The approach was initially recommended in a Government-commissioned report published in 2022 by ex-children’s charity chief Javed Khan

Smoking kills around 78,000 people in the UK every year, with many more living with illnesses due to their habit — half of which are due to cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke. 

It is estimated that around 500,000 hospital admissions every year in England are attributable to smoking and that smoking costs the economy £17billion per year.

Of this, £2.4billion falls on the NHS, £1.19billion falls on the social care system, and over £13billion is lost in productivity costs from tobacco-related lost earnings, unemployment and premature death.

The 7,000 chemicals in tobacco — including tar and others that can narrow arteries and damage blood vessels — are thought to be behind some of the damage smoking inflicts on the heart.

Meanwhile, nicotine — a highly addictive toxin found in tobacco — is heavily linked with dangerous increases in heart rate and blood pressure.

Smoking also unleashes poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, which replaces oxygen in the blood — reducing the availability of oxygen for the heart.

HISTORY OF SMOKING POLICY IN THE UK 

2004: Ireland bans smoking in enclosed public places, including pubs, clubs and restaurants 

2006: Scotland implements smoking ban on indoor public spaces

2007: England, Wales and Northern Ireland bring in indoor ban. In England, smoking is banned in almost all enclosed public spaces and the NHS goes smoke-free. Legal age to buy cigarettes raised from 16 to 18

2008: Cigarette companies told to feature pictorial health warnings on packets

2010: Government announces it will enforce tobacco display ban and consider plain packaging for tobacco products

2015: Smoking in cars with children banned in England and ban on the display of tobacco in small shops comes into force throughout the UK

2017: Government issues target to reduce smoking prevalence among adults to 12 per cent or less by 2022

2019: Department of Health publishes plans to make England smoke-free by 2030

2020: Menthol cigarettes are banned in the UK and EU

2023: Rishi Sunak’s unveils radical plan to effectively ban kids born after 2009 from smoking

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