Reducing the social gradient in smoking: initiatives in the United Kingdom

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2012 Jul;31(5):693-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2012.00447.x. Epub 2012 Apr 4.


Issues: To describe initiatives aiming to reduce the social gradient of smoking in the UK.

Approach: A description of government initiatives to support smokers from low socioeconomic and other key groups, including National Health Service Stop Smoking Services and how they are seeking to support smokers to quit.

Key findings: The UK is employing a number of strategies to reduce smoking prevalence and is currently top of the Tobacco Control Scale in Europe but the health gap does not yet appear to be decreasing (in relation to smoking prevalence in deprived and higher income groups). More recently, efforts have been made to target smokers in more deprived groups to draw more of these smokers into the quitting process.

Implications: While Stop Smoking Services are a key part of the UK's comprehensive tobacco control strategy and are reaching smokers from low socioeconomic groups, wider population strategies, such as ensuring all contacts with health-care professionals include advice to stop and the prohibition of remaining channels of tobacco marketing, are required to maximise the impact on deprived smokers.

Conclusion: While smoking prevalence decreases among the general population are important, reducing smoking among disadvantaged groups is imperative to reduce health inequalities. It is too soon to say whether the new measures recently adopted in the UK will help to achieve this.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • National Health Programs / organization & administration*
  • Prevalence
  • Program Development
  • Smoking / economics
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology