Key data: alcohol and smoking

Statistics on alcohol and smoking

Compiled by Men’s Health Forum, December 2014. Updated April 2020.


  • Men are more likely than women to smoke, smoke more cigarettes per day and smoke hand-rolled tobacco. In England in 2018, 16.4% of men report smoking compared to 12.6% of women. (NHS Digital, 2019). Across Great Britain in 2018, 17.0% of men reported smoking compared to 16.2% of women. (ONS, 2019)
  • Men are more likely than women to drink alcohol and drink at hazardous levels. 31% of men and 16% of women drink over 14 units in a usual week; 55% of men and 64% of women, drink at levels considered to be at lower risk (up to 14 units) while13% of men and 20% of women do not drink. (HSE, 2015)

Tobacco smoking

Men are slightly more likely to smoke cigarettes than women and to smoke more cigarettes each day.

  • 14.4% of adults in England were current smokers in 2018 (16.4% of men, 12.6% of women). This compares with 42% of men and 36% of women in 1980 (Reference: ONS, NHS Digital, 2019).
    • Across Great Britain, men smoked a higher number of cigarettes a day than women, with men smoking on average 11.6 cigarettes a day, compared with 11 for women (Reference: ONS 2015).
  • Although filter cigarettes continue to be the most widely smoked (in 2015, 59.4% of women and 46.8% of men smoked mainly filter cigarettes), there has been an increase in the proportion of smokers who smoke mainly hand-rolled tobacco.
  • In 1990, 18% of men and 2% of women who smoke said they mainly smoked hand-rolled cigarettes, but by 2015 this had risen to 39.2% and 31.1% respectively (Reference: ONS 2011, ONS 2015).
  • Men in manual groups are more likely to smoke: 29% did so in 2013 compared to 14% in non-manual groups (Reference: ONS).
  • Married or cohabiting men are less likely to smoke – 18% did so in 2010 compared to 25% of single men and 33% of divorced or separated men. 15% of widowed men smoked (Reference: Information Centre).
  • The proportion of current smokers was higher among those with lower incomes, being three times as many as in the lowest income quintile (29%) compared with the highest (10%). The difference between the highest and lowest income quintiles was larger for men than women (22 and 17 percentage points respectively). (HSE, 2015)
  • Among current smokers, men are less likely than women to want to give up smoking. In the Health Survey of England, 43% of men agreed with one of the two statements indicating they did not want to stop smoking compared with 38% of women. (HSE, 2015)


The proportion of men across Great Britain who used e-cigarettes was 4.6% in 2015 representing a small increase from 2014, when 4.0% of men were e-cigarette users. This compares to 4.4% of women using e-cigarettes in 2015 and 3.4% in 2014.  The prevalence of ever having tried e-cigarettes was much higher among current smokers - 64.2% of male smokers have tried them. Only 4.2% of men who had never smoked have ever used an e-cigarette. (ONS, 2015)


Men are more likely than women to drink alcohol and to drink at levels that are hazardous for health. Men in higher income households are the heaviest drinkers.

  • In England in 2015, 15% of men and 9% of women (aged 16 and over) reported drinking an alcoholic drink on five or more days in the week prior to interview (HSE, 2015)
    • Among adults who had drunk alcohol in the last week, 52% of men drank above 4 units on at
      least one day, and 50% of women exceeded 3 units on at least one day. (HSE, 2015) (In 2012, 21% of men reported drinking over 8 units and 13% of women reported drinking over 6 units on at least one day in the week prior to interview: Information Centre).
    • Twice as many men than women drank at an increasing risk level (27% and 13% respectively); for men this was defined as more than 14 units and under 50 units, and for women more than 14 units and under 35 units. A higher proportion of men than women also drank at higher risk levels; 4% of men drank over 50 units and 3% of women drank over 35 units in the last week. Across all age groups, men were more likely than women to drink at increasing and higher risk levels peaking at ages 55-64 for both sexes (41% and 24%). (HSE, 2015)
  • Adults in higher income households were more likely to drink over 14 units in a usual week than those in lower income households. 37% of men in households in the highest income quintile and 34% in the next highest drank at higher risk levels, compared with between 27% and 29% of men in lower income households. Across all household incomes the proportion of men usually drinking over 14 units a last week is consistently higher than the proportion of women. The difference between men and women is most pronounced in the lowest income households (29% and 9% respectively). (HSE, 2015)
  • In 2012/13 males were more likely to be admitted to hospital with alcohol related diseases, injuries and conditions than females, with 65% of the overall admissions being male patients (Reference: Information Centre).
  • Males were much more likely to die from alcohol-related causes in the UK in 2012
  • The death rate per 100,000 population for males was 15.9 compared to 7.8 for females. (Reference: ONS).
  • On average, in the 2001-12 period, 66% of alcohol-related deaths have been in males (Reference: ONS).
  • Since peaking in 2008, age-standardised alcohol death rates have slowly decreased for both men and women (Reference: ONS).



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In the UK, one man in five dies before the age of 65. If we had health policies and services that better reflected the needs of the whole population, it might not be like that. But it is. Policies and services and indeed men have been like this for a long time and they don’t change overnight just because we want them to.

It’s true that the UK’s men don’t have it bad compared to some other groups. We’re not asking you to ‘feel sorry’ for men or put them first. We’re talking here about something more complicated, something that falls outside the traditional charity fund-raising model of ‘doing something for those less fortunate than ourselves’. That model raises money but it seldom changes much. We’re talking about changing the way we look at the world. There is nothing inevitable about premature male death. Services accessible to all, a population better informed. These would benefit everyone - rich and poor, young and old, male and female - and that’s what we’re campaigning for.

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