Britain’s secret smokers.

This research paid for by Sainsbury’s rather lets the side down when it comes to the number of smokers in the UK from ASH’s point of view.  Just over 3 million or 7.5% of the adult population have a crafty smoke, the reasons mainly are “…drinking alcohol (31%) or have been tempted by other smoking friends (13%) or are letting their hair down whilst on holiday (12%).” The current UK population, if you include snuff,  pipe and cigar smokers is 28% it suggests over 1 in 3 of us enjoy tobacco. (See link.)

The other inference is that “secret smokers” skew epidemiological studies into lung cancer. Called misclassification for example if a study on second hand smoke and lung cancer has an OR of 1.25 with an RR of 10 for lung cancer and active smoking, only 1 in 40 need to fib about their smoking habits and the the OR becomes 1.00, the null hypothesis.

It seems that at least 7.5% of us do.




‘Non-smoking’ Brits admit to enjoying the occasional cigarette

30th June 2011Print Email Share

There are some 3.02 million Brits who class themselves as “non-smokers”, but admit to having the occasional cigarette or having a “puff” of someone else’s cigarette, according to research by Sainsbury’s Life Insurance.

Earlier this year the supermarket bank revealed that around 6.5 million life insurance policy holders gave up smoking more than 12 months ago and haven’t used nicotine replacement products in the past year, therefore could be eligible to be classified as non-smokers by a life insurance provider and save themselves on average, 46% less on their premiums.

David Cook, Sainsbury’s Life Insurance Manager said: “It’s interesting quite how many Brits regard themselves as non-smokers but are in fact social smokers. We’d urge anyone who finds themselves in this camp to go that extra inch and fully kick their habit.

“If someone classes themselves as a non-smoker when taking out a life insurance policy, but in fact is having the occasional cigarette whilst in a social situation or to help combat stress, they need to ask themselves whether their ‘non-smoking status’ is really valid.  To qualify as a non-smoker and to receive cheaper life insurance premiums, someone has to have been nicotine-free for 12 months.”

The research reveals that many so-called non-smokers are indeed “social smokers” who are  tempted into breaking their non-smoking habit with the odd cigarette because they’ve been drinking alcohol (31%) or have been tempted by other smoking friends (13%) or are letting their hair down whilst on holiday (12%).

The primary reason cited for relapsing into having a cigarette differs across the age groups, with the over-45s being much more likely to claim that their occasional cigarette is to help them relieve stress, compared to the under-35s who predominantly say that alcohol has contributed to their uncharacteristic smoking.

The research also indicated that one in five smokers (3.27 million Brits) could potentially reduce their life insurance premiums if they were to give up smoking. Apart from the obvious savings you can make from not buying cigarettes, your life insurance premium could decrease as you are demonstrating that you’ve made efforts towards living a healthier lifestyle.

Sainsbury’s Finance’s life insurance premiums start from as little as £5 a month (which is 16p per day)(2) and are among the most competitive available, regularly appearing in best-buy tables.

For further information, visit

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10 Responses to Britain’s secret smokers.

  1. Frank J says:

    Good work, Dave, good work and well done Sainsbury’s. Wouldn’t this skew the SHS figures? It must do. 3 million people with traces of baccy who don’t smoke? must be SHS! I don’t believe it’s only 7.5% either. I think the full figure to be nearer half the population but they just won’t admit it.

    Wonder what ASH and the other Govt. and Pharma funded ‘fonts’ will say. Probably ignore it.

  2. ChrisB says:

    Smoking down & cancer up = negative correlation add to that a smiling populace and we get evidence for urgent medical intervention.
    You obviously don’t understand but we assure you it really makes sense!

  3. Paul says:

    You have people like my dad who believe everything the anti-smokers tell them and would never be seen smoking in public… but smoke anyway. They’ve done this for many years – they may have “given up”, but that’s only so they’re not ‘denormalised’.

    I believe there is a massive duplicity in British society at the moment – people are saying one thing and doing another. It was forever thus but it seems to be becoming more and more so because people fear the consequences, the social stigma, the discrimination and the bigotry from Righteous if they’re honest about their choices.

  4. Junican says:

    I have a ‘friend’ at the pub. He is a young man – maybe 30. Occasionally, he comes over to me and asks for a cigarette. I have no problem with that at all. I give him one – provided that it is an occasional request. But he is not the only one.

    I think that he is a genuine non-smoker really. I suppose that he falls into the catagory of ‘tempted in an alcohol situation’. Maybe so – but I feel sure that he would not be asking for a fag if he did not enjoy it. I suppose that he would also come under the catagory of ‘a smoker who wants to give up’, and also ‘a smoker who welcomes the smoking ban’.

    I never buy chocolates, but occasionally, someone buys me a box of chocolates (birthdays and such). I know that once I start to eat them, I will not be able to stop until the box is empty. Therefore, it would be wonderful if the Government banned chocolates.

    What sort of science is that? Is there a name for it? Oh yes! It is called epidemiology.

  5. Frank J says:

    No MSM interest, I presume? Off message, is it?

  6. Jonathan Bagley says:

    The link to does not appear to working.

    When policy holders die, is there any investigation into their smoking status?

  7. Dave, the first “scientific smoking study” that I ever analyzed in depth was the Hirayama “Japanese Wives Study” from 1980 or so. I remember being amazed at all its defects, but one of the largest was the misclassification problem.

    As you note, just one “secret smoker” out of forty can completely devastate the “significant link” findings. Now take a moment to think about Japanese culture in the 1930s through 70s. Something like 50-70% of the men admit smoking, but only about 5% of the women. Why? Because smoking among women was heavily seen as very low class — practically an admission that you were “nothing but a whore.”

    But now consider: If you’re a wife with a nonsmoking husband, you’re going to be very unlikely to smoke (in those years at least) because you’re generally at home, it would be embarrassing to buy a pack of cigarettes (particularly just to “give them a try”), and because you’d be afraid hubby would sniff it and divorce you.

    And consider: if you’re a wife with a smoking husband, cigarettes will be lying around in easy reach all the time while you’re home and bored. You have no big worry about the “sniff test” because hubby smokes like a chimney. And there’s no need to buy cigarettes because hubby will never notice one, two, or even five a day missing.

    So now think what happens when Hirayama comes bopping around asking about your smoking habits and discovers that a lot of “nonsmoking” Japanese wives with smoking husbands are getting lung cancer? Think about a culture where instead of one in forty secret smokers skewing the results it might be more like one in ten or even one in five.

    I believe misclassification was a MAJOR factor in Hirayama and probably even in a number of later studies elsewhere that supposedly tried different correcting methods. Salivary cotinine is a good test for regular light smoking, but falls apart when the smoking is more occasional (say, just a couple of packs a month at weekend parties.) Hair nicotine analyses can be better if the hair is properly analyzed but I don’t think ANY of the wives’ studies used that methodology and found significant results.

    When you throw that confounder in with all the others out there and then add in the percentage of ordinary “faked results” that researchers are known in all fields to do “just for the money,” and THEN add in the faked or skewed results stemming from smoking researchers’ idealistic beliefs that getting the “right” results will be “good for humanity” and “justified by a little fudging for a good cause” …

    At that point I attach virtually NO validity at all to the meta-analyses of the ETS/LC studies.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  8. Pingback: Weekly suggested reading in Tobacco Harm Reduction – 6 July 2011 « Tobacco Harm Reduction: News & Opinions

  9. Pingback: I Have To Have A Beer! | Frank Davis

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