The Public Health Impact of Tobacco Smoking in the UK

The Public Health Impact of Tobacco Smoking in the UKSmoking is the largest avoidable cause of death and serious disability in the UK and most other developed countries, and a global health threat. There are about one billion smokers worldwide, of whom about half will die prematurely as a direct consequence of their smoking, unless they quit.[1] In the UK around one in five adults, or about ten million people, are current smokers,[2, 3] five million of whom are expected to die prematurely from smoking, losing a total of around 100 million years of life.[4] Smoking currently accounts for around 100,000, or about one in six, deaths each year in the UK.[5]

Smoking causes around 85% of the approximately 40,000 cases of (and deaths from) lung cancer in the UK each year,[6] and contributes to the development of many other cancers, including oral cavity cancer, oesophageal and gastric cancer, kidney and bladder cancers, and pancreatic cancer.[7] Smoking also accounts for about 85% of the 23,000 deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) each year in the UK, and about 25,000 of the more than 200,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease.[5] Smoking also increases the risk of pneumonia, asthma exacerbation,[7] and a wide range of other adverse health effects.

Taken From:

Electronic cigarettes: A report commissioned by Public Health England

Authors: Professor John Britton and Dr Ilze Bogdanovica

UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Nottingham

© Crown copyright 2014

  1. World Health Organization. Tobacco- Fact Sheet No339, July 2013. Available from: (accessed 21 September 2013).
  2. Current use of electronic cigarettes. UK Medicines and Healthcare Product Regulatory Agency, 2013.
  3. Office for National Statistics. Chapter 1 – Smoking (General Lifestyle Survey Overview – a report on the 2011 General Lifestyle Survey), 2013. Available from: (accesssed 13 March 2014).
  4. Doll, R., et al., Mortality in relation to smoking: 50 years’ observations on male British doctors. Br Med J, 2004. 328(7455): p. 1519-1533.
  5. Peto, R., et al., Mortality from smoking in developed countries 1950-2000. United Kingdom 1950-2007. www deathsfromsmoking net:; 16.11.2010 (accessed 27 Feb. 2013).
  6. Lung cancer- Cancer Research UK. Available from: help/type/lung-cancer/ (accessed 13 March 2014).
  7. Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians. Harm reduction in nicotine addiction. 2007, London: Royal College of Physicians.


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