Smoking will be “eradicated” in England by 2030 as roughly a thousand people quit every day, health chiefs have predicted.
More than a million smokers have kicked the habit since 2014, Public Health England said yesterday, leaving overall rates at their lowest ever, with just 14.9 per cent of adults smoking.
The figures were announced as the Government body launched its annual “Stoptober” campaign – a drive to encourage people to stop for at least 28 days – which this year prominently features the benefits of e-cigarettes.
Britain currently has the second lowest smoking rates in Europe after Sweden, and officials believe that if the rate of reduction seen over the past five years is maintained then by 2030 England would be classed as “smoke-free”, defined as less than 5 per cent of the total population smoking.
Nearly 400,000 smokers gave up successfully last year, PHE said yesterday, and statisticians believe a further 6.1 million – six in 10 smokers – actively want to quit.
But the agency warned people that going “cold turkey”, trying to quit using willpower alone, was the least effective method.
It said that in 2017-18 half of those who accessed smoking cessation services with stop smoking aids were successful.
Around 63 per cent of those who used an e-cigarette in their quit attempt were successful. Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Medical Director at Public Health England, said: “We predict that thousands of smokers will quit every day over the next 10 years – I urge smokers not to get left behind for the benefit of their health. “There are many different types of stop smoking support available, so it can be difficult for a smoker to know what will work best for them. “The important thing is not to be put off trying to quit even if you have not managed to in the past.” PHE’s advocacy of e-cigarettes as an aid to help people quit is likely to spark criticism. While scientists agree the devices are considerably less damaging than traditional cigarettes, evidence is only just emerging about the risks from vaping, such as a study published last month which found the practice speeds up the death of lung cells 50 fold. The agency also believes the NHS should play a far bigger role in encouraging smokers to quit.
Last Week Duncan Selbie, the PHE chief executive, said that while one in four patients occupying an NHS hospital bed was a smoker, staff only raised the subject of quitting in one in 13 cases. The new PHE estimates come from its Health Profile for England report which states that the prevalence of smoking in adults has declined from 19.9 to 14.9 per cent in the last seven years. If this trend continues, it will reduce to between 8.5 and 11.7 per cent by 2023, the authors suggest.
Steve Brine, Public Health Minister said: “Millions of people are living healthier lives as a result of our efforts to reduce smoking rates.
“Britain is a global leader on tobacco control and our robust policies mean smoking rates have fallen to record lows. But we are not complacent — we know we must do all we can to keep encouraging smokers to quit for good.”