Skip to main content

Smoking and inequalities – let’s put a stop to it!

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Health and Wellbeing, Health inequalities

Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in England.  It is estimated that in 2013, 79,900 deaths in adults aged 35 and over were caused by smoking, this equates to 17% of all deaths in this age group.

Data available in the latest refresh of the Public Health Outcomes Framework shows that 18.4% of the population in England smoke. However, the prevalence of smoking varies significantly by socio-economic group; in the UK 12.7% of people in managerial and professional occupations smoke compared with 28.4% of those in routine and manual occupations.

For those interested in statistics on smoking, more are available in our local authority Tobacco Control Profiles.


We all know that smoking is the single biggest risk factor for cancer and clearly, the marked social gradient in the prevalence of smoking, pictured above, translates across to inequalities in the incidence of, and deaths from diseases associated with smoking.

Stark evidence of this is clearly presented in our report, published in partnership with Cancer Research UK, which draws attention to the dominance of the contribution of lung cancer to excess deaths in the more socio-economically deprived. Findings demonstrate that if all socio-economic groups had the rates of the least deprived, around 5,800 deaths from lung cancer could be prevented each year in England.

So what are we in Public Health England doing about smoking? What can we all do, as public health professionals, as local leaders, or as peers, friends or family members, to help people stop smoking to save lives and reduce health inequalities?

Smoking is one of seven key priorities for us over the next 5 years. We are committing our efforts to reducing smoking and stopping children starting.

Working closely with our partners in local and national government, with the NHS, the voluntary and community sector, and with industry and academia, we will strive to make a significant difference over the coming five to ten years.

If you’re a public health professional or a local councillor, I would urge you to encourage your local tobacco control team to take up Public Health England’s offer to provide CLeaR assessment training for two people engaged in tobacco control in each local authority area. The CLeaR assessment is an opportunity to evaluate efforts on the control of tobacco, benefits of which include greater impact for the reduction of inequalities caused by smoking.

I hope all readers of this blog will be familiar with this year’s Stoptober campaign which used a humorous slant to promote the campaign’s messages and encourage as many people as possible across the country to take part. Those who successfully took part in Stoptober and didn’t smoke for 28 days are now 5 times more likely to remain smoke free.

If you want to help someone who didn’t take part in Stoptober this year, or someone who would like continued support, pointing them in the direction of their local Stop Smoking Service is a great step to take.

I want to see a real reduction in health inequalities over the next 5 years in England and a huge contribution to this reduction can be realised through collective efforts on tobacco control. If you have any comments on how we can really make a difference in reducing health inequalities associated with smoking, I would be pleased to hear your thoughts.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Bren posted on

    Hello Kevin,

    Thanks for the blog and the information and messages in this.

    I think it is good to link the smoking and inequalities agenda together. It is also good to move to the widest areas of support for people, that being beyond statutory agencies, and this is the best way to be across this and other hath and social care domains.

    I think the messages need to be ones that the people can relate to and are placed in a succinct and connecting way. Hence, it will be good to evaluate and learn more from the Stoptober campaign.

    Thanks Kevin and a great blog.

    Best wishes,


  2. Comment by Sarah posted on

    Hi Kevin
    I work for a mental health trust and smoking cessation is a real challenge. We are hoping to go smokefree in 2016. Further support and guidance from PHE in this area would be most welcomed, especially encouraging clinical staff to work on public health and smoking interventions.
    I would like to see more data and information published on smoking and mental health and how we reduce that. Mental health information is not routinely collected among other health stats.

    Thank You