More than one in five employees in routine, manual and service occupations in England smoke, according to data from the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities (OHID). That’s three times higher than other industries.

Figures reveal the employee smoking inequality gap has grown by 5% over half a decade. Routine and manual professionals are falling behind national trends for smoking cessation.

Smoking prevalence in manual roles means these employees are 65% more likely to smoke, when compared to the average smoking rate in England. The data insights, collated by Vape Club, highlight the need for equal smoking cessation support for all in society.

Dan Marchant, managing director of Vape Club, says:

Falling rates of smoking are rightly celebrated, but we can’t ignore the kind of inequality this data shows. HR departments in routine and manual sectors have to step up and address the issue, offering people greater support to quit smoking.

Dan Marchant, managing director of Vape Club

The government has set a target of reducing the number of smokers to 5% of adults in England by 2030. To achieve this, encouraging health and safety workers to use smoking cessation methods will be key. The UK government launched a world-first ‘swap to stop’ scheme, in which 1 in 5 of all smokers in England will be provided with a free vape starter kit to help them quit.

A recent trial by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the NHS Stop Smoking Service found a vape starter kit helped 42% of participants to quit within a month. A further 15% had quit after 12 weeks.

Which areas are workers in routine and manual industries impacted most by high smoking rates?

In Manchester, Islington and Merton (the three worst-affected areas) people working in routine and manual roles are around three times more likely to smoke than the average person in England.

In all 20 areas with the highest smoking rates in such roles, the probability of these employees smoking is at least twice as high as the national average.

There are just eight areas in England where routine and manual employees are less likely to smoke than the average person. In Sefton, the rate of smoking among these workers is around 8%.

Bethany Smith, HR advisor at boiler suppliers and installers Heatable, says: 

Supporting employees in adopting a healthy lifestyle shows that you care about their health and wellbeing, which itself improves morale and overall productivity. A healthy workforce performs far better and is also less likely to be absent due to illness and stress. Ultimately, this is an extremely easy and efficient way for the company to save money and time.

Bethany Smith, HR advisor at boiler suppliers and installers Heatable

Joanne Swann, Content Manager, WorkWellPro
Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.