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UK research: Industries with highest smoking rates revealed

Accommodation and are more likely to smoke than workers in any other UK industry, according to new statistics released by the () ahead of No Smoking Day on 11th March. (1)

Research has shown that smoking just one to four cigarettes a day can triple a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. (2) The charity says that quitting is the single best thing people can do to improve their .

Yet the UK workforce puffs through a staggering 74 million cigarettes on average a day – that’s 12 per smoker – significantly increasing their risk of a heart attack or stroke. (3)

The BHF has released new statistics based on the latest official data, ranking the UK industries with the highest smoking rates. The research highlights the urgent need for greater intervention from employers to help workers quit for good

The accommodation and food service industry came out worst where almost a third (31%) of workers smoke – almost three times the level in the education sector (11%) which ranked best.

The water and waste management industry ranked second worst with 29% of workers currently smoking, followed by the construction industry with 28% – significantly higher than the national UK smoking rate of 19%

The other industries with the lowest smoking rates included the professional, scientific and technology sectors where around one in eight workers currently smoke.

Previous research shows the average smoker takes more sick leave and working breaks compared to their non-smoking colleagues. This demonstrates the serious toll smoking has people’s heart health and costs UK businesses an estimated £8.7 billion in lost productivity every year. (4)

The BHF’s Health at Work programme offers free expert advice to over 10,000 members on how to create a healthier workforce.

The charity is calling on all UK employers to help their workers quit by joining its Health at Work programme and holding No Smoking Day events on 11th March.

Lisa Young, Project Manager for the BHF’s Health at Work programme, said: “No matter what industry you work in, smoking is extremely damaging to your heart health and the health of your business.

“But this research shows there is still a shocking divide between blue and white collar professions when it comes to how many of us are taking up this deadly addiction.

“Good health is good business. That’s why we want all UK employers to help us tackle these inequalities head on by helping their workers kick the habit for good.

“By taking part in No Smoking Day, employers could help their staff take the single biggest step towards a healthier heart whilst reaping the benefits of a stronger, more productive workforce.”

Every year nearly a million people attempt to quit by signing up to No Smoking Day.

To sign up to the BHF’s Health at Work programme and download free No Smoking Day resources, visit www.bhf.org.uk/health-at-work

ONS Integrated Household Survey, 2012

Smoking prevalence: In the UK, 19% of adults smoke, equivalent to nearly 10 million people

Ranking Industry Current smoker (%)
1 Accommodation and food service activities 31.3
2 Water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation 28.7
3 Construction 27.7
4 Administrative and support service activities 26.5
5 Transport and storage 24.3
6 Manufacturing 22.8
7 Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles 22.7
8 Agriculture, forestry and fishing 19.4
9 Other service activities 19.3
10 Mining and quarrying 19.2
11 Real estate activities 19.1
12 Arts, entertainment and recreation 18.9
13 Health and social work 18.4
14 Electricity, gas and air conditioning supply 17.3
15 Electricity, gas and air conditioning supply 15.9
16 Information and communication 15.4
17 Public admin and defence 13.6
18 Professional, scientific and technical activities 12.9
19 Education 11.1


1) Analysis based on data from the ONS Integrated Household Survey, 2012

2) Bjartveit K, Tverdal A. Health Consequences of Smoking 1-4 cigarettes a day. Tobacco Control 2005: 14:315-320. doi: 10.1136/tc.2005.011932.

3) BHF estimate based on latest ONS workforce statistics and HSCIC statistics on smoking.

4) The Cost of Smoking to UK Businesses, 2014

Source: British Heart Foundation (BHF)