Current Status

Smoking prevalence has reduced from 25% of adults in the baseline year, 2006, to 20% in 2014. In this context, the fall between 2013 and 2014 from 23% to 20% is relatively large.

National Indicator


 Reduce the percentage of adults who smoke

Indicator Measure

Proportion of adults aged 16+ years who are current smokers

Reduce the percentage of adults who smoke

Why is this National Indicator important?

Smoking has an enormous influence on the health of people in Scotland. Despite recent reductions in smoking levels, and early evidence of the positive impact this has on people's health, there are still relatively high levels of smoking in Scotland, particularly amongst certain groups of individuals. It is particularly important to reduce levels of smoking amongst the young, the deprived and pregnant women.

What will influence this National Indicator?

Smoking-uptake is influenced by a variety of social and cultural factors. So, if we are to reduce smoking levels, we need a comprehensive, broad-based, multi-agency programme of action, as set out in the Scottish Government's tobacco action plan 'A Breath of Fresh Air for Scotland' (2004) and the smoking prevention action plan "Scotland's Future is Smoke-free" (2008).

This involves a number of key issues. Firstly, making cigarettes and other tobacco products less available through, for example, effective enforcement of tobacco sales law. Secondly, making it less attractive, particularly to children and young people. This can be achieved through measures to ban advertising and promotion of tobacco and smoking in public places, and measures to educate and promote healthy lifestyles. We can also make cigarettes less affordable through, for example, effective fiscal policy. We must also, of course, have the support mechanisms in place to help smokers to quit.

What is the Government's role?

The strategic framework for tobacco is set out in “Creating a Tobacco-Free Generation A Tobacco Control Strategy for Scotland” which announces the Scottish Government’s ambition for a tobacco-free Scotland by 2034 (defined by smoking prevalence of less than 5%).  This builds on previous strategies: 'A Breath of Fresh Air for Scotland' (2004), 'Better Health, Better Care' (2007) and Scotland 's Future is Smoke-free published in May 2008. Taken together, these set out a range of measures to shift cultural attitudes to smoking, particularly through: smoke-free legislation; bans on the display of tobacco in shops and a ban of sale through automatic vending machines, continued investment in tobacco control activity, including over £15m a year on smoking cessation services and measures to stop young people smoking in the first place.

How is Scotland performing?

Smoking among adults has declined from a level of 31% in 1999 to 20% in 2014. The decrease in smoking prevalence between 2013 and 2014, from 23% to 20%, is the sharpest year-to-year change in the time series.

Smoking Prevalence - Scotland 2014

The data for this chart is available at the bottom of the page

Source: Scottish Household Survey

What more do we know about this National Indicator?

Smoking prevalence is strongly associated with area deprivation. In 2014, 34% of adults in the most deprived areas of Scotland reported smoking, compared to 9% in the least deprived areas.

More men than women smoke (22%, compared to 19%).

Smoking prevalence is highest among 25-34 year olds (28%) and lowest in the 75 and over group (8%).

In the last year, smoking prevalence has dropped most sharply amongst younger adults (aged 16-24) from 24% to 18%.

People with a long-term condition are more likely to be current smokers (25%, compared to 18% of adults who do not have a long-term condition).

The data is available at the bottom of the page.

Criteria for recent change

Any difference within +/- 1.3 percentage points of last year's figure suggests that the position is more likely to be maintaining than showing any change. A decrease by 1.3 percentage points or more suggests the position is improving; an increase by 1.3 percentage points or more suggests the position is worsening.

Please note: The criteria for this indicator changed before the 2014 data point was assessed. This was because, using Scottish Household Survey data where the figure is around the 20th percentile, a change of around 1.3 percentage points is likely to be statistically significant and not due to sampling error. Given this, the Technical Assessment Group decided that a threshold of 1.3 percentage point is more appropriate for this indicator than the previous threshold of 0.5 percentage points. This would not have had an effect on the current performance assessment.

Further Information

For information on general methodological approach, please click here.

Scotland Performs Technical Note

Who are our partners?

NHS Scotland

Local Authorities

Related Strategic Objectives


Wealthier and Fairer

View National Indicator Data

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Title:Reduce the percentage of adults who smoke
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