Smoking in Wales

Our ultimate aim is for Wales to become a smokefree nation. This is generally defined as a smoking prevalence rate of 5% or less. To assess progress towards this goal, we keep track of statistics and information about smoking in Wales.

Smoking Prev Table Oct 2016

Key information about smoking in Wales


Smoking prevalence among adults aged 16+ has fallen consistently over the past decade. In 2015, 19% of adults in Wales smoked (men: 21%; women: 18%).

The 2013/14 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) report shows that smoking is at an all-time low among 15 and 16 year olds in Wales with 8% of boys and 9% of girls smoking regularly. For the past 20 years the proportion of regular smokers has been higher among girls aged 11-16 than boys of the same age. These 2014 stats are the first to show a minimal difference.

In 2015 the percentage of adults from the least deprived areas of Wales reported as being a smoker was 11% compared to a figure of 29% recorded among the most deprived adults within the Welsh population.

ASH England estimates that in 2016 there are approximately 2.8 million e-cigarette users in Great Britain, an increase from 700,000 in 2012. 6% of Welsh residents currently use an e-cigarette, equating to 141,000 of the country's population (Welsh Health Survey 2015).

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Second-hand smoke

In 2015, 29% of non-smoking adults aged 16+ were regularly exposed to passive smoke in Wales, down from 42% in 2007. Since 2008 a higher proportion of non-smoking women have been regularly exposed to passive smoke than men, with there being a 2% difference in 2015 (men:28%; women:30%).

In 2013/14 one in eight children aged 11 to 16 reported being exposed to second-hand smoke in cars, rising to almost a quarter of those in the low family affluence group. In addition, in 2014, 3.6% of all children aged 10 and 11, equating to 7.0% of children of smokers, reported having been in a car where someone was smoking the previous day. From October 2015, it has been illegal in England and Wales to smoke in a car carrying anyone under the age of 18.

Between 2007 and 2014 the percentage of 10/11 year olds with no parents who smoke in the home went up from 63% to 78%.

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Prevention and cessation

1.3% of smokers (6,631 individuals) were treated across Wales as a whole by Stop Smoking Wales in 2014/15. Considering all NHS smoking cessation services (additionally including pharmacies and ‘in-house’ services available via hospitals and GP surgeries) 2.6% of smokers in Wales accessed services in 2015/16, falling well below the Wales Tobacco Control Action Plan target of 5%.

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Smoking cessation performance data 2015/16 – Welsh Government validated

Morbidity / mortality

Over the period 2008-10, an average of 5,605 smoking related deaths and 28,607 smoking related hospital admissions occurred in Wales.

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Illegal tobacco

The illegal tobacco market in Wales in 2014 accounted for 15% of tobacco consumption. Of all current smokers aged 16+ in Wales 25% have purchased illegal tobacco, with its purchase being more prevalent among males (31%) than females (19%).

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In 2010, 16% of all mothers in Wales smoked throughout their pregnancy, a drop of 6% relative to the equivalent figure of 22% observed in 2005. Women aged 24 or under are most likely to smoke throughout their pregnancy.

In 2016 the Public Health Wales Observatory published new pregnancy surveillance indicators presenting data for births in the period April 1st 2014 – March 31st 2015. 
The table below shows the percentage of women who smoke during pregnancy by Health Board:

Smoking Pregnancy By Health Board 2016 Eng

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Mental health

In 2015 the smoking prevalence of adults being treated for a mental illness was 33% in comparison to a smoking prevalence of 19% reported among the whole of the adult population in Wales in 2015.

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Economic cost

Data from research we carried out in 2013 shows that the economic cost of smoking to Wales, based upon the factors listed in the full report below, is an estimated £790.66 million per year. However, it could be as high as £1.04 billion per year. The cost of smoking to the Welsh NHS specifically is likely to be around £302 million per year but could be as high as £436.6 million per year.