Data and Research

The North East has seen the largest fall in smoking prevalence since 2005 when regional working in the North East began through Fresh, with smoking having fallen from 29% in 2005 to 13.1% in 2022.

Fresh has a busy strand of work studying insight, data and latest behaviours around smoking and across the North East to shape priorities and guide campaigns.

We carry out qualitative and quantitative work around attitudes towards tobacco, with a particular focus on exploring public support and motivation for behaviour change.

What we know?

A survey of 793 North East smokers in 2023 found:

  • Nearly half (46%) of current North East smokers say they really want to quit
  • 40% were trying to cut down and 13% were trying to quit
  • Around 1 in 5 say they have a health condition related to smoking….43% of those cited COPD.
  • For smokers who want to quit, 81% mention concern over impact to health and 46% financial reasons
  • 83% of smokers under-estimate the 1 in 2 risk of smoking
  • 77% smokers wish they had never started

We monitor North East public opinion and reflect this back to stakeholders to show the strong levels of support for “making smoking history. The North East has seen some of the highest support in the country for measures to reduce smoking. See our Advocacy page. 

78% of NE adults support the vision of 5% of fewer people smoking by the year 203 and only 7% of adults in the North East think the Government is doing too much to reduce smoking. YouGov Smokefree Survey 2023

We also develop data-led infographics reports for localities to support local discussions and reach a broad range of stakeholders.

Tracking the illegal tobacco market

The availability of illicit tobacco undermines price and age restrictions on tobacco by keeping smokers hooked and providing a cheap accessible source of tobacco to children. Organised criminal gangs are behind the supply and it funds and fuels wider criminal activity in local communities.

Fresh has been monitoring the size and nature of the illegal tobacco market in the North East for over a decade. We provide a regional picture around brands of illegal tobacco, proportion of smokers buying and smoking it, sources for buying and selling and general attitudes towards the illicit market. Latest figures (2021) show:

  • Around 11% of all tobacco smoked is illegal – largely unchanged since 2015 but lower than 2009 (15%).
  • 15% of smokers buy illegal tobacco.However 61% of buyers now purchase it at least once a week – an increase
  • 43% of adult buyers mainly purchase from a house or “tab house”, and 29% from a shop (29%). Street sellers make up 9% of purchases and online only 5%

Fresh leads the Illicit Tobacco Partnership – a national collaboration as part of broader strategies to reduce smoking prevalence, protect communities from tobacco-related harm, and stop children from starting in the first place. Visit the Illegal Tobacco Partnership.

North East smoking prevalence since 1998

Further data reports

For more detailed data reports at national level visit:

Action on Smoking and Health to find detailed research reports on many aspects of tobacco control – from the tobacco industry to smoking in pregnancy

ASH local toolkit: ASH also have an excellent Local Toolkit with materials for local public health professionals and councillors involved in tobacco control – including the Ready Reckoner which gives a detailed breakdown of the cost of smoking to local areas.

Local Tobacco Control Profiles   provide a snapshot of the extent of tobacco use, tobacco related harm, and measures being taken to reduce this harm at a local level. These profiles have been designed to help local government and health services to assess the effect of tobacco use on their local populations. They will inform commissioning and planning decisions to tackle tobacco use and improve the health of local communities.

Smoking Habits in the UK from Office for National Statistics provides a breakdown of people who smoke in the UK including the proportion of people who smoke, demographic breakdowns, changes over time and use of e-cigarettes use.

The Smoking, Drinking and Drug use among young people in England survey helps central and local government to better understand young people’s behaviours and to develop policies, plan services and new initiatives and to monitor and evaluate their impact.