Kicking the habit: how England’s going smoke-free

The number of people who smoke is at an all-time low. Could it soon be zero?

Smoking is one of the most harmful lifestyle choices you can make when it comes to your health. It currently kills 200 people per day in England. That’s because smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer, and a risk factor for many other lethal cancers and heart disease. The good news is that fewer adults are smoking than ever before – and the UK Government has just laid out an ambitious vision to help us all kick the habit completely. If all goes to plan, we could see the first generation of non-smokers in 20301.

What’s the plan?

The Tobacco Control Plan aims to reduce the smoking rate in the general population. Smoking rates in England are at their lowest since records began, and the number is continuing to fall. Since the smoking ban was implemented in 2007, smoking rates have continued to fall.

The Department of Health has committed to several targets it wants to achieve by the year 2022. Hitting these ambitious targets will help to pave the way for a totally smoke-free generation1.

  • Reduce the smoking rate in the general population from 15.5% to 12%
  • Reduce the proportion of 15-year-olds who smoke regularly from 8% to 3% or less
  • Reduce the smoking rate among pregnant women from 10.7% to 6% or less

By targeting young people and pregnant women, the Tobacco Control Plan aims to try and stop children from smoking or choosing to smoke in the future. In theory, this should reduce the popularity of smoking among the next generation.

Is it achievable?

no smoking sign

The chief executive of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie, explained that the country is now at a “pivotal point” in the push to end smoking. However, he also said that “The final push, reaching the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, will undoubtedly be the hardest.”1

The government plans to use four main actions to achieve a smoke-free generation. These are2:


  1. Prevention first - reducing the uptake of smoking by young people through measures such as further controls on packaging.
  2. Supporting smokers to quit – training all NHS workers to help people quit smoking, particularly mental health professionals.
  3. Eliminate regional and socio-economic variations in smoking rate – supporting local councils and promoting ‘stop smoking’ services across the country.
  4. Reduce the demand – make tobacco less affordable using high taxes, and keep high sanctions in place for selling illicit tobacco. 

What about vaping?


As far as we know, vaping (the use of e-cigarettes) is 95% less harmful than smoking3  and can be a useful tool for people who are struggling to quit. Encouraging vaping is not an official part of the government’s plan to stamp out smoking, but health officials are on the record saying that if it helps people, it should not be discouraged.

Vaping is extremely popular, with 2.6 million people in the UK currently using e-cigarettes4. Last year, e-cigarettes were awarded a medical licence as an aid to help people stop smoking, in the same way as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) devices such as inhalers and replacement patches. NRT is currently available on prescription from GPs, as well as being on sale at shops and pharmacies, and it is hoped that e-cigarettes will soon also be available on prescription.

Trying to quit?

There are many good reasons to quit smoking, but here are five of the best to start with. If you’re trying to stop smoking, there is a great deal of support available. An advanced health assessment is a good place to start. One of our highly qualified doctors will provide you with a personalised health report and specific ways to stop smoking and also improve the rest of your lifestyle.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337
or make an online enquiry.


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