More Young Women Smoking Cigarettes in the UK, As More Young Men Quit

By May Wilkerson 02/23/16

Despite the increase in female smokers, the overall number of smokers in Britain is at its lowest level on record. 

More Young Women Smoking in the UK, As More Young Men Quit
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Here’s one area where women surpassing men isn’t a sign of positive social change. Smoking among men seems to be on the decline, but more young women are lighting up, according to a new survey of adult smoking habits in the UK. The survey, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows that 22% of women ages 25-34 are smokers, up from 20% the previous year. And the proportion of women ages 16-24 who smoke also rose from 20% to 21% in the same time period.

But as quickly as young women are picking up smoking, young men seem to be kicking the habit. The overall number of smokers in the UK has hit a record low of 18.8% of the population over aged 16. And men between ages 25 and 34 have quit smoking at the greatest rate, with 25% of them smoking, compared to 26% in 2014, and 30% in 2013.

"It is certainly worrying that more young women are taking up smoking,” said Dr. Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation. She said that the UK plans to introduce plain cigarette packaging (without bright colors or appealing graphics) in May, which she hopes will help reduce smoking rates. But she added that more efforts are needed, specifically more funds for services that help people quit. The government aims to get the rate of smokers in the country to below 18.5% by next year.

"Smoking cessation services—the most effective way of helping people quit—are under threat around the country due to budget cuts,” said Woods. “If we want to continue helping people quit and look after their lung health, investment in these vital services must be protected." 

Unsurprisingly, pro-smoking lobbies aren’t a fan of the Department of Health spending more to help people quit. Simon Clark, director of UK smokers' advocacy group Forest, claims smoking cessation services are a waste of money and aren’t effective. "What the government has to understand is that millions of people enjoy smoking and no amount of harassment will change that,” he said. "You can't outlaw pleasure and the more you tell people how to behave, the more they will dig their heels in. It's called human nature."

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.