In a report released on Tuesday 16th January by the World Health Organization (WHO) on global tobacco trends, it has been noted that tobacco use rates have continued to decline globally in 2022. This positive trend is indicative of substantial progress in tobacco control efforts, with approximately one in five adults worldwide reported to be currently consuming tobacco; this is a significant reduction from the one in three adults reported in 2000. As global efforts to curb tobacco consumption intensify, it is essential to examine and understand how smoking rates in the UK compare to the global landscape.

Global Decline in Tobacco Use

The WHO report provides encouraging insights into the global efforts to reduce tobacco use; with 150 countries successfully reducing tobacco use, while six countries are still seeing tobacco use rising: Congo, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Oman, and Republic of Moldova. Over the past two decades, concerted efforts by governments, healthcare professionals, and advocacy groups have led to a notable decline in the prevalence of tobacco use. In 2000, one in three adults worldwide were using tobacco, while in 2022, this figure has dropped to one in five. This decline is reflective of the ongoing commitment to public health and the implementation of effective tobacco control measures.

Smoking Rates in the United Kingdom

Against the backdrop of global progress, the UK has demonstrated its continued commitment to reducing smoking rates through legislative initiatives. About 24.1 per cent of the British population aged 15 and over reported using a tobacco product in 2010, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The figure is projected to drop to 12.5 per cent next year, a reduction of about 48 per cent.

In a significant move, proposed legislation for England aims to make it an offence for anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, to be sold tobacco products. This legislative measure is a testament to the UK’s dedication to creating a tobacco-free future, particularly among younger generations.

The proposed legislation for England is a proactive step to protect the health of the younger population. By restricting access to tobacco products for this demographic, the UK aims to prevent the initiation of smoking habits at an early age, thereby contributing to a sustained decline in smoking rates.

Challenges and Future Directions

Despite the commendable progress, challenges persist in achieving a tobacco-free world. Tobacco companies continue to employ sophisticated marketing strategies, and emerging tobacco products pose new challenges for regulators. Ongoing vigilance, robust policy implementation, and international collaboration are crucial to addressing these challenges and ensuring sustained success in reducing smoking rates.

“Good progress has been made in tobacco control in recent years, but there is no time for complacency,” says Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of WHO Department of Health Promotion. “WHO urges countries to continue putting in place tobacco control policies and continue to fight against tobacco industry interference.”


The WHO tobacco trends report underscores the global success in decreasing tobacco use, with a notable decline from one in three adults in 2000 to one in five in 2022. The UK’s commitment to tobacco control is exemplified by proposed legislation targeting the sale of tobacco products to individuals born after January 1, 2009.

As the world collectively strives towards a tobacco-free future, the UK stands as a positive example of effective tobacco control measures, contributing to the global decline in smoking rates. Continued efforts, both nationally and internationally, are imperative to build on this success and overcome the remaining challenges in the quest for a healthier, smoke-free world.

The clear health benefits from the reduction and cessation of tobacco use, particularly smoking, will not only have a direct impact of individuals’ health and fitness, but also significantly reduce the burden on national healthcare systems through the reduced need for medication and hospitalisation.

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