Just one in 10 English people will smoke cigarettes in five years and Britain could be a smoke-free society by 2030, according to Public Health England (PHE).
The forecasts were made after 400,000 people gave up smoking in England last year, leaving 6.1 million smokers – or 14.9% of the population in the country, according to the Office for National Statistics. That’s down from a 15.5% rate the previous year and a 19.8% level in 2011
PHE predicted that between 8.5% and 11.7% of people will smoke in 2023 if current trends continue.
The body’s chief executive, Duncan Selbie, urged the National Health Service (NHS) to commit to the goal of making Britain effectively smoke-free by 2030 – meaning that less than 5% of the population would smoke – at the annual NHS Expo event earlier this month.
The figures suggest that the country could be on track to achieve that goal.
However, PHE warned that the majority of people attempting to quit are not using the most effective methods.
Six in 10 smokers want to give up but most who try rely only on willpower – or going “cold turkey” – which is the least effective way to quit, the health body said.
The organization launched its Stoptober campaign on Thursday, encouraging people to give up cigarettes for 28 days in October.
“Britain is a global leader on tobacco control and our robust policies mean smoking rates have fallen to record lows,” Public Health Minister Steve Brine said in a statement announcing the campaign.
He added: “But we are not complacent – we know we must do all we can to keep encouraging smokers to quit for good.”
There were 77,900 deaths attributable to smoking – down 2% from the previous year – in England in 2016, the latest year for which figures are available, according to the NHS.
Poorest smokers “left behind”
Although the figures indicate that the total number of smokers in England is falling rapidly, more must be done to reduce inequalities in order to bring about a “truly smoke-free society,” according to one expert.
“While smoking rates are declining on average, the poorest and most disadvantaged smokers are being left behind. Funding must be found if the government is to achieve the vision of a smoke-free society by 2030,” Deborah Arnott, chief executive of smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health, told CNN.
One in four people in routine and manual occupations smoke, compared to one in 10 in managerial and professional posts, according to PHE’s figures.
Arnott called for a levy to be placed on the tobacco industry on a “polluter pays principle,” with money raised being spent on tobacco control measures and campaigns.
“Tobacco manufacturers are some of the most profitable companies on earth; they can easily afford the costs of radical action to drive down smoking rates,” she said.