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Smoking among younger middle-class women ‘up 25% in a decade’ | UK News

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Smoking among younger middle-class women has jumped more than 25% in the last decade, according to new research. 

By contrast, smoking rates fell among working-class women.

Using data from the Smoking Toolkit Study, an ongoing monthly survey of adults in England, researchers from University College London (UCL) looked at the smoking habits of 197,266 people, including 44,052 women of reproductive age (18 to 45).

They found smoking rates in more advantaged women rose from 11.7% to 14.9% between 2013 and 2023, while rates among women in lower socioeconomic groups fell from 28.7% to 22.4%.

Smoking rates among men remained stable across the decade.

Meanwhile, vaping among all women aged 18 to 45 has more than tripled in a decade.

Almost one fifth (19.7%) of women reported vaping in 2023 – up from 5.1% in 2013.

The reasons for younger middle class women smoking more were “unclear”, according to senior author Dr Sharon Cox.

“However, it may be that financial pressures of smoking were less influential for this group,” she said.

Lead author Dr Sarah Jackson, of UCL’s institute of epidemiology and health care, said it was “concerning” to see more women in this group smoking.

“Reducing smoking is especially important among women in this age group as smoking reduces fertility and increases the chances of complications during pregnancy, miscarriage and poor infant health.”

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The study also found the majority of smokers use roll-ups – 54%, up from 42% in 2013.

This was particularly pronounced in women aged 18 to 45, where 61.4% said they mainly or exclusively smoked hand-rolled cigarettes, up from 40.5%.

The researchers said the cost-of-living crisis may have affected more disadvantaged women’s finances and, therefore, their desire to smoke. It may also have led to a switch to cheaper hand-rolled tobacco.

The study was funded by Cancer Research UK and published in BMC Medicine.

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It comes as Rishi Sunak’s flagship smoking ban aimed at stopping younger generations from ever smoking passes its first parliamentary hurdle.

The prime minister wants to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes annually in a bid to phase out the habit, as well as restrict the sales of vaping products.



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