NHS Confederation responds to the latest Health Survey figures

Dr Layla McCay responds to the latest Health Survey figures

6 June 2024

• In 2022 13% of adults reported were smoking cigarettes, a slight increase compared to 2021 (12%).

• Adults living in the most deprived areas were more likely to smoke cigarettes (21%) than those living in the least deprived areas (9%).  

• 9% of adults currently used e-cigarettes in 2022, an increase from 5% in 2021.

• More men (32%) than women (15%) drank at levels that put them at increasing or higher risk of alcohol-related harm. This is an increase compared to 2021 when 28% of men drank at increasing or higher risk levels.

• Some 12% of children aged 8-15 had ever used an e-cigarette or vaping device in 2022. This is an increase from 9% in 2019.

• Some 25% of children aged 13-15 years had ever used an e-cigarette, an increase from 19% in 2019.

Responding to part 1 of the latest Health Survey statistics, Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation said:

"While it is encouraging to see the continued fall in adults, children and young people who smoke and drink alcohol these figures do raise some concerns. The fact that a higher proportion of adults are drinking at increasing or higher risk levels and more children are vaping is something that health leaders will want to keep a close eye on.

“There is frustration across the health and social care sector that plans to tackle these social determinants of health continue to be shelved or delayed. The Major Conditions Strategy which aimed to alleviate pressure on the NHS and increase healthy life expectancy by focusing on the principal lifestyle drivers of ill-health and disease, such as obesity and smoking, has been pushed back yet again due to the election and the Health Disparities White Paper that was due to be published in 2022 never saw the light of day. If it had published when it was promised, health leaders and their teams would have had two years to implement and drive improvements.

“The improvements in smoking and drinking rates are testament to the hard work of local leaders and their teams as well as people taking responsibility for their own health rather than the government setting out a clear strategy to tackle these issues.

“The upcoming election has also led to the proposed Tobacco and Vapes Bill being pushed back. Health leaders welcomed this as a step in the right direction to tackle smoking. Tackling the harms of tobacco and vaping through creating a smokefree generation is a key goal of local health and care leaders and our members have been calling for SmokeFree legislation since the 2022 Khan Review. The government must recognise the influence ICSs can have in their areas by helping bridge the gaps to ensure that everyone has equal access to the resources they need to quit smoking and lead healthier, longer lives. That is why we produced a toolkit for system leaders to use to embed action on health inequalities into integrated care systems.

"If we are going to tackle the key drivers of ill health and health disparities, health leaders and their teams will need the right support and resources from the next government. That is why we are calling on the next government to lead a cross-government national mission for health improvement.”