Illustration of cigarettes in an infinity loop

This is a sample from our ‘Quit Cigarettes’ mission, which is currently live in the UK. Our goal is to increase the amount of people in the UK who quit cigarettes. Read more about our first mission here.

At VICE, we’re on a mission to help people quit cigarettes. We believe that information is the key to motivating smokers to change their ways. Even when that information could be better labelled as bad news. We take a look at some of the hard facts about smoking cigarettes.

Only 16.8% of smokers who try to quit, succeed

Here’s a real bummer of a fact to get this thing going: Only 16.8% of smokers who try to quit, succeed. That’s bad news for all of us. Not just the 70% of smokers who say they want to quit cigarettes*.

The game is rigged, and the odds are stacked heavily against us. Need more? Here are some additional stats to mull over: 30% of people tried quitting within the last year. Only 16% of those people succeeded in quitting. Only 5% of people stopped smoking within the last 12 months.

You’re More Likely to Quit Cocaine Than Quit Cigarettes

To put it in ordinary, everyday terms, you are more likely to be called for jury service in England or Wales than you are to quit smoking. In fact, people are more likely to quit cocaine than quit cigarettes. Or more likely to meet Kevin Bacon, be in debt forever or get busted by the police than you are to quit cigarettes. Obviously, this needs to change. And change just might be headed your way.

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Cover of the Tobacco Control Plan, the Department of Health and Social Care's vision to reduce smoking in England.

One Country has Decided to Eliminate Cigarettes

The United Kingdom has made it a priority to eliminate cigarettes. That is, achieving a situation in which less than 5% of the population smoke cigarettes. And they have some really compelling reasons for this, the facts of which are:

77,900 people die from smoking every year in the UK. That makes smoking the single largest cause of preventable death, according to the National Health Service.

And the sooner you start, the worse it gets. Start smoking at 15, and you’ll be 3 times more likely to die from cancer than someone who starts smoking in their mid-20s. Even then, for some children, smoking looms large from day one, as 10.8% of British mothers were smokers at the time of delivery in 2018.

It May Seem Counter-Intuitive, But the Numbers Tell Us Not to Quit by Going Cold Turkey

The NHS and the government have put together some pretty straight forward material on the facts of quitting cigarettes - for example about the myths of stop-smoking treatments, and why doing everything but going cold turkey leads to better likelihood of actually quitting cigarettes.

Despite this effort, too many Britons still smoke.

Smoking is one of the largest causes of health inequality in the UK

Where There is Smoke, There is Inequality

But smoking doesn’t just most likely shorten your life. Both when it comes to revealing your social standing or to highlight societal injustice, cigarettes are a real smoking gun. Just ask the good people at the UK Office of National Statistics.

According to them, 25.9% of people working jobs as labourers, bar staff, lorry drivers, receptionists and care workers smoke. Compare this to the 10.2% people working as lawyers, architects, nurses and teachers, and you can probably see the point coming a mile away: Smoking is one of the largest causes of health inequalities in the UK.

Hurting Us All

And smoking doesn’t just hurt smokers or their loved ones. We’re all paying for it. According to the Government’s Tobacco Control Plan for England, smoking costs our economy more than £11bn per year.

Research commissioned by Change Incorporated -- Leading Global Market Research Company: Smoking Cessation Study 2019

Of the total, £2.5bn falls to the NHS, £5.3bn falls to employers, and £4.1bn falls to wider society. And that doesn’t even include the additional costs of smoking-related fires and tobacco litter, not to mention the wider costs associated with black market tobacco and organised crime.

What does Success Look Like?

Where do we start? Public Health England, the executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care charged with making the public healthier, has an ambitious vision of creating a smoke-free generation. That begins by helping people to quit and reducing the percentage of smokers by 2022:

  • among 15 years old (from 8% to 3% or less).

  • among adults (from 15.5% to 12% or less).

  • among pregnant women (from 10.7% to 6% or less).