The number of smokers in the UK has fallen to an all-time low - although e-cigarette use is up

Courtney Goldsmith
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UK smokers appear to be switching to vaping (Source: Getty)

The number of cigarette smokers in the UK fell to its lowest-ever in 2016, new figures have suggested.

Some 7.6m people said they smoked in 2016, with the proportion of current smokers falling to 15.8 per cent, marking a statistically significant decline of more than four percentage points since 2010, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in its report on adult smoking habits.

Smokers made up 17.2 per cent of the population in 2015, while back in 2010, 20.1 per cent of people smoked.

However, e-cigarette use is on the rise as new products gain traction in the UK market.

Around 2.9m people in Britain currently use e-cigarettes, or 5.6 per cent of respondents, compared with 2.3m in 2015, the ONS said.

However, the proportion of those who have tried or no longer use the vapour products is much higher: 18.6 per cent or respondents said they had tried an e-cigarette, while 13.4 per cent said they no longer used one.

It's not just the kids using new technology: although the youngest age group, those aged 16 to 24, were more likely to have tried an e-cigarette or been an e-cigarette user, the 35 to 49 age group were found to most likely be current e-cigarette users.

Read more: The UK's e-cigarette market could be worth more than £4bn by 2021

However, the ONS warned the sample size for e-cigarettes is small, so more random fluctuation could occur.

"While it may be too early to identify trends without a longer time series, it is interesting to observe the difference in proportion of current e-cigarette users particularly by age since 2014. The findings show that the largest increase in current use was among those aged 16 to 24 years followed by those aged 50 to 59 years."

The most common reason for using e-cigarettes was, unsurprisingly, as an aid to stop smoking, with around half of respondents citing this reason.

Read more: British smokers are switching to vaping faster than anyone in Europe

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