Smoking prevalence figures for 2019, published this week by the Office for National Statistics, show that 14.1% of people in the UK aged 18-plus smoked cigarettes – around 6.9 million people.
In Northumberland, the proportion of smokers last year was 12.9%, up from 12.1% in 2018, but this remained the lowest rate of the 12 North East local authorities, just ahead of Newcastle with 13%. The highest prevalence in the region was in Hartlepool – 19.3%.
The county’s figure was not only lower than the UK rate of 14.1% – which fell from 14.7% the previous year – but also the English average of 13.9%.
Northumberland’s percentage was also lower than in all of the previous years other than 2018, having been as high as 18.1% in 2012. There was a major drop from 16.9% to 13% between 2016 and 2017.
In 2019, 13.7% of men in the county smoked, up from 12.5% in 2018, while 12.1% of women were smokers, increasing from 11.7%. These proportions were the lowest and second lowest in the North East respectively.
The proportion of smokers in the North East fell from 16% in 2018 to 15.3% last year.
Prior to these figures being released, a Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said: “Stop smoking services in the region have helped thousands to quit smoking, with Northumberland in particular having helped over 36,000 to break the habit over its lifetime.
“Smoking rates continue to fall and the North East has seen one of the greatest declines in smoking prevalence despite hosting some of the regions’ most deprived communities.”
She added: “Helping our residents stop smoking remains a top priority and we will continue to work towards our goal of making smoking history.”
In the UK, 15.9% of men smoked compared with 12.5% of women. Those aged 25 to 34 years had the highest proportion of current smokers (19%).
Coun Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Greater help is needed for those most in need of support, including routine and manual workers, pregnant women or people with mental-health conditions.
“Every pound invested by government in council-run services such as public health helps to relieve pressure on other services like the NHS, criminal justice and welfare.”