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Dramatic Change In UK Spending Habits Shows The Decline Of Smoking

July 01, 2017

If the key to a nation's priorities lies in its shopping lists, then Britain has been transformed in 50 years from a society spending mainly on basic food and warmth to one transfixed by the delights of leisure and travel, new figures show.

The usually stern face of official government statistics softened yesterday to offer an anniversary glimpse of family spending habits in 1957, the year an annual household expenditure survey was first launched in a post-ration book Britain.

The contrasts are telling. Five decades ago families were spending a third of their income on food, non-alcoholic drinks, cigarettes and bus fares. That proportion has dropped to just 15% in today's era of cheap food.

The lists of the top 50 commodities and services for households then and now offers a rare window on life in 1950s Britain, and on the significant changes in priorities since then.

Cigarettes have fallen from an astonishing second place, burning up 5.6% of weekly expenditure, to 30th place, at less than 1%.

The 2006 survey, published later than usual due to a change in the way the ONS gathers statistics, also reveals UK households spent an average of £456 a week during 2006, up from £443 in 2005/6.