In 2002/03, 26 per cent of adults (aged 16 and over) in Great Britain were cigarette smokers.
The percentage of adults who smoked cigarettes fell substantially in the 1970s and the early 1980s – from 45 per cent in 1974 to 35 per cent in 1982. After 1982 the rate of decline slowed and then levelled out from 1992, at around 26 to 28 per cent.
In the 1970s men were far more likely than women to be smokers. In 1974, 51 per cent of men and 41 per cent of women smoked cigarettes. During the 1970s and 1980s the gap between men and women narrowed. It has still not disappeared completely. In 2002/03, 27 per cent of men and 25 per cent of women were cigarette smokers.
Although, overall, a greater proportion of men than women smoke, this is not the case for those aged 16 to 19. In 2002/03, 29 per cent of young women (aged 16 to 19) were cigarette smokers compared with 22 per cent of young men.
Since the early 1990s, cigarette smoking has been more common among people aged 20 to 34 than those in other age groups.
Two thirds (66 per cent) of adults who were current smokers or had smoked regularly at some point in their lives had started smoking before the age of 18, and 38 per cent had started before the age of 16.
Overall, in 2002/03, 68 per cent of smokers said they would like to stop smoking altogether.