Number of young Londoners smoking halves in decade amid rise in vaping

The proportion of young people in London who smoke has halved in over a decade, new figures have revealed (File picture)  (PA Wire)
The proportion of young people in London who smoke has halved in over a decade, new figures have revealed (File picture) (PA Wire)

The proportion of young people in London who smoke has halved in over a decade, new figures have revealed, amid a sharp rise in vaping.

Analysis by the Standard shows that just 10.1 per cent of people aged between 18 and 24 regularly smoked cigarettes in 2022 - a drop of 10.7 per cent on the figure reported in 2011.

Londoners in the age group are the least likely to smoke of any region in England, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Men were slightly more likely (10.7 per cent) to smoke than women (9.4 per cent).

Across all age groups, just 11.7 per cent of Londoners said they smoked cigarettes in 2022 - a decline of 7.5 per cent in 12 years. This was lower than the national average of 12.9 per cent.

James Tucker, data and analysis for social care and health division at the ONS, said the figure is “consistent with the continuing trend towards a decline in smoking prevalence over recent years”.

Tracy Parr, Programme Director London Tobacco Alliance and Stop Smoking London, told the Standard: “Smoking rates in London may have fallen over the past 12 years, but around a million Londoners still smoke and tobacco remains the single largest cause of health inequalities, preventable illness, and early death in the UK.”

She added: “Reducing smoking has been a huge pan-London collaborative achievement. But while we are delighted to see the impact this work is having, we are mindful that we have a long way to go if we are to see our target of 5 per cent smoking prevalence achieved for London by 2030. Tobacco kills one in two of its long-term users and so we have just seven years to save hundreds of thousands of lives in London.”

The decline in smoking comes amid a significant rise in the number of young people choosing to vape instead.

A total of 15.5 per cent of Britons aged between 16-24 identified as daily or occasional e-cigarette users in 2022, compared with 11.1 per cent the year before. This increase was particularly significant among women in the age group, with a fourfold jump in vaping rates between 2021 and 2022. The ONS did not release figures on e-cigarette use in London specifically.

The ONS figures also reveal a significant variation in smoking rates across different London boroughs, with more deprived areas seeing a higher rate of smoking than more affluent boroughs.

Hounslow had the highest rate of smoking (16.3 per cent), followed by Haringey (15.9 per cent) and Havering (15.9 per cent). In comparison, just 6.2 per cent of adults in Kingston upon Thames smoked, the lowest figure in the capital.

This was followed by Richmond upon Thames (6.4 per cent), Bromley (6.5 per cent) and Sutton (6.9 per cent).

Ms Parr said that the figures showed “a tale of two cities when it comes to the impact that smoking is making on people’s lives and livelihoods”.

“The physical, emotional and financial toll this places on smokers and their families is enormous.

“We also know that unemployed people are almost twice as likely to smoke than those who are employed and those in routine and manual jobs are almost three times as likely to smoke than those in managerial positions or professional occupations.”