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Cigarette prices motivating more quit attempts, study says

The rising price of cigarettes is motivating more people – one in four adults in England – to give up smoking, research suggests.

In a survey of nearly 6,000 people, health concerns were still the top reason for quitting.

But highlighting the money that could be saved by stopping smoking could encourage even more quit attempts, the University College London study said.

The average price of a packet of 20 is more than £14, rising to £16 in 2026.

Dying early

Cigarettes are the number-one preventable cause of death and disease in the UK.

The tobacco and toxins they contain can lead to lung cancer, lung disease and heart disease, with about half of all lifelong smokers dying early.

Giving up smoking reduces these risks – and health experts say it is never too late.

The study, which surveyed smokers every year between 2018 and 2023, found a continued rise in the proportion trying to quit since the start of the Covid pandemic – and that could have motivated others.

Latest figures show 12.7% of adults in England smoke – down from nearly 20% in 2011.

Writing in the journal BMJ Public Health, the researchers say the pandemic probably raised smokers’ awareness of the health dangers, leading to a rise in health-motivated quit attempts in 2020 and 2021.

But Covid also led to the loss of jobs and income for many people, which has since been compounded by a cost-of-living crisis.

“If you smoke, you can reduce your outgoings by switching to e-cigarettes,” Dr Sarah Jackson, from UCL, said.

“This might be a helpful message in any future government campaign to get more people to stop smoking.”

Previous research, from 2018-22, found smokers spent, on average, £20 on cigarettes each week, with e-cigarette users spending £6.30.

As prices rose, smokers either reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked or switched to cheaper hand-rolled cigarettes – but at some point, there would have been a limit.