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In the News

Psychology In The News | The Costs of Smoking

Rosey Gardiner-Earl

13th May 2024

New research shows that the increasing cost of cigarettes in England is becoming a major factor in encouraging smokers to try and stop smoking.

A monthly survey of nearly 6,000 people in England across five years found that a quarter of smokers are now motivated to quit by the financial cost of smoking. The average cost of a packet of 20 cigarettes in England is approximately £14, meaning the economic burden of the habit is getting harder to sustain.

The health concerns associated with smoking were the main reason cited for trying to stop. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death, and diseases like lung cancer and heart disease in the UK. Approximately half of lifelong smokers die prematurely. Stopping smoking greatly reduces these risks, no matter how old you are when you quit. Therefore, research findings could be said to have important economic implications for the NHS.

The study, released in the British Medical Journal, surveyed smokers yearly from 2018-2023 and documented a rising number trying to give up since the Covid pandemic began. Researchers believe that the pandemic may have increased people’s awareness of the negative impact that smoking has on health, motivating them to stop (there was an increase in the proportion of people trying to stop in 2020-2021). However, the cost-of-living crisis that followed Covid may have made the financial aspect of smoking a compelling reason to try and stop over time. Official figures show just 12.7% of English adults now smoke, down from nearly 20% in 2011.

"If you smoke, you can reduce your outgoings by switching to e-cigarettes," Dr Sarah Jackson, from University College London, said. "This might be a helpful message in any future government campaign to get more people to stop smoking."


Trends in motives for trying to stop smoking: a population study in England, 2018–2023


  1. The researchers in this study conducted face-to-face interviews with participants. Outline one strength and one weakness of using this research method in relation to this study.
  2. During Covid, the researchers changed the research method to a questionnaire (because they were no longer able to meet people face to face). Why might this method have been less effective than a face-to-face interview?
  3. Research into stopping smoking has important economic implications for the NHS and employers. Using examples, explain why this is.
  4. Use your knowledge of informational social influence in social change to explain why there was an increase in people stopping smoking during Covid.
  5. Explain one other social influence process in social change which may have led to the decrease in smoking from 2011-2024.

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Rosey Gardiner-Earl

Rosey has 15 years of experience teaching Psychology and has worked as both a Subject and Senior Leader in school and large sixth form setting. Rosey is also an experienced A level Psychology examiner.

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