New health survey reveals biggest ever annual drop in smokers

Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has welcomed the news of a 5% annual drop in smokers in NI.   

The ‘Health Survey (NI): First Results 2020/2021’ document revealed that 12% of adults smoked cigarettes, compared to 17% in 2019/2020.  

Naomi Thompson, Health Improvement Manager at Cancer Focus NI said, “This is an enormous step forward in the right direction.  Although in recent years smoking rates have continued to decrease steadily, it’s been by 1% at best. We acknowledge that this year’s survey sample has changed in comparison to previous years. However, a 5% drop is a great indication that we’re moving in the right direction towards a tobacco–free Northern Ireland and improving the health of local people.” 

Cancer Focus NI provides Stop Smoking support services, smoking prevention programmes for young people, and professional Stop Smoking training for health care professionals. The charity has advocated on tobacco issues for more than 50 years and has campaigned successfully for significant changes in public policy. These include the introduction of smoke free public places; a ban on the display of tobacco products in shops; tougher sanctions against retailers who sell tobacco to children and young people under the legal age; and standardised packaging.  

Ms Thompson continued: “We believe that all of these tobacco control measures and initiatives are having a real impact on smoking rates in Northern Ireland. There’s no question that great work has been done, but there is still much more to do. To achieve our vision of a tobacco-free Northern Ireland by 2035 we need to have a new Tobacco Control strategy in place as soon as possible. 

“There are 2,300 deaths caused by tobacco in Northern Ireland each year with thousands more affected by cancer, respiratory and other smoking related illnesses. The very best thing people could do to improve their health is to stop smoking.  If you need help to quit, our Cancer Focus NI’s award-winning Stop Smoking service, funded by the Public Health Agency, is available via GP practices, health and wellbeing centres, community, workplace and youth settings.” 

For more information on Cancer Focus NI’s Stop Smoking support services visit