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Number of smokers in Northern Ireland at a record low... but we still puff the most in UK

By Staff Reporter

The number of people smoking in Northern Ireland is at an all-time low, new figures show.

Around one in six adults here said they used cigarettes.

That is equivalent to 16.5% of our adult population (around 226,000 people) - higher than England (14.9%); Wales (16.1%) and Scotland (16.3%).

That's down from 19% just two years ago.

The figures emerged in a report published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It is estimated that smoking is responsible for 2,300 deaths each year here.

Gerry McElwee, from Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, said: "This progress is thanks to the world-leading strategy implemented by successive Governments to support more people to quit and prevent children from taking up smoking.

"Those actions have been taken forward locally by the implementation of the 10-year tobacco control strategy for Northern Ireland, 2012-2022.

"There has been notable successes, such as the introduction of smoke-free public places, the provision of very successful stop-smoking services and fewer children smoking."

He added progress was needed to address the gap in smoking rates between rich and poor, and among pregnant women.

"In addition, we need to protect young people from smoking in cars - such legislation has already been implemented in Britain and the Republic of Ireland," he said.

The report suggests that young adults across the UK are spurning cigarettes.

The ONS data shows the largest reduction in smoking prevalence since 2011 has been noted among 18 to 24-year-olds.

Last year 17.8% of people in this age bracket had said they were smokers, its report said.

This is compared to 2011 when more than a quarter of young adults (25.7%) classed themselves as smokers.

Across all age groups, the number of UK smokers has "significantly" fallen since 2016, the figures show.

Overall, 15.1% - or around 7.4 million people - were smokers in 2017.

Yesterday's report adds: "The latest figure represents a significant reduction in the proportion of current smokers since 2016, when 15.8% smoked."

The report also shows around 5.5% use electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes.

While a significant rise from 2014, when just 3.7% of people were 'vaping', the figure represents a slight dip from 2016 when it stood at 5.6%.

More men than women are smokers - in 2017, 17% of men smoked compared with 13.3% of women.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity, Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), said: "Smoking must become history for all of society, not just for the wealthy.

"Cuts in public health funding and lack of treatment for smoking on the NHS mean poorer more heavily-addicted smokers, including those who are pregnant, are not getting the help they need to quit."

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