Here’s Why Teenage Smoking Rates in the UK Continue to Decline

Nowadays, everyone more or less knows that smoking is very bad for your overall health and can lead to a number of different health issues. That hasn’t always been the case. There was a time when the dangers of smoking were more or less hidden from the public.

But now? We know how bad it is, and we’ve got a lot of ways to quit. There’s nicotine gum, there are vaporizers to help you quit smoking, and a lot more. The science behind addiction is becoming better-understood, and fewer teens are trying smoking. That’s very positive, and an encouraging trend.

Quitting smoking is one thing, but never starting in the first place is what will really move the needle for the rate at which people smoke.

The NHS tracks various metrics when it comes to teenage smokers, and they divide them into three distinct groups. There’s youth who have never smoked, who are currently smokers, and who are regular smokers. “Current smoker” means people who smoke regularly or occasionally.

Here’s a look at their data:

teen smoking over time

Overall, this is an encouraging chart. There are points where it sneaks up, but in the long-term, it continues to decline for the most part. Current smokers and youth who have ever smoked have risen slightly but still, they pale in comparison to where they started.

Why Are Fewer and Fewer UK Teens Smoking Cigarettes?

If someone starts smoking at a young age, it’s very hard to quit. Here are some things to consider when it comes to the younger demographic’s reduction in smoking rates.

  • Many teens get their first cigarettes from their parents, or from a friend of theirs who took it from a parent. If they don’t get their cigarettes directly from their parents, they could still be aiming to emulate the parent’s behavior.
  • Many parents started smoking at a time when it wasn’t as widely known just how dangerous it could be or had parents from that generation who passed the habit down.
  • As fewer parents smoke, due to increased awareness and other reasons, fewer children will smoke. That’s part of the equation, at least. Not everyone wants to do what their parents do, of course.
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Also, in the past, if a teen became addicted to smoking, there wasn’t really a clear exit path for them. They wouldn’t want to ask an adult for help for fear of punishment for smoking, but with the internet and better access to support, and alternatives like vaping which have been very effective at getting youth to quit smoking, there’s more light at the end of the tunnel.

Cigarettes are kind of the quick and dirty way to get a nicotine fix, but there isn’t really an enthusiast community around them, or aficionados, in the same way that exists for cigars. Vaping has that type of community of enthusiasts, it’s appealing to younger people because it’s tech, and you can blow huge clouds, etc. People might try different brands of cigarettes, but they’re not really putting research into the purchase, they’re not shopping around, they’re not reading up about the hobby, they’re not upgrading their equipment, and so on.

“We’ve found that many of our customers are putting a lot more effort into finding the best vaporizers in the UK than they ever put into choosing cigarettes.” – Archy Davidson from

Are Vapes a Good Alternative?

The major argument in favor of vaping is that it’s healthier for us than cigarettes as a vehicle for nicotine delivery. The nicotine, in and of itself, is not a particularly harmful substance. It’s everything else that gets burnt and inhaled that really causes problems for people that smoke cigarettes. If the goal is harm reduction, then the vaporizer community would argue that their method achieves that.

Mat Woods

Author Information

Mat Woods is the lead writer at He works tirelessly alongside the rest of the team to create useful, well-researched, trustworthy articles to help parents and their teens.