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Smoking hits record low of 17% of adults in England

Cigarette sales plummet as over a million use e-cigarettes in their attempt to quit

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The proportion of adults in England who smoke has hit a record low, Public Health England said this morning. At the same time, it revealed that the number of cigarettes sold in England and Wales has plummeted, which it said could be down to the increased use of quitting aids, including e-cigarettes, and to new laws on packaging.

PHE is gearing up for ‘Stoptober’, when it encourages the country’s remaining 7 million smokers to attempt to quit en masse during October – joining the nearly 15 million who have already stopped smoking. It said that of the 2.5 million who attempted to quit last year, 20% were successful. This is the highest ever figure, and a great improvement on the 13.6% who succeeded six years ago.

PHE cited data from Nielsen that showed a 20% drop in the number of cigarettes sold in England and Wales over the past two years. It said separate research had found that in 2015, 1,027,000 people used e-cigarettes in their attempt to quit smoking, compared with about 700,000 who used nicotine patches or gum or similar products. In 2015-16, more than 350,000 used their local stop-smoking service.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Gina Radford commented: “While we know that quitting smoking is not easy … There is more help and support available now than ever before. The introduction of standardised packs removes the glamorous branding and brings health warnings to the fore and e-cigarettes, which many smokers find helpful for quitting, are now regulated to assure their safety and quality.”

PHE said today that the smoking rate in England has now fallen to below 17% for the first time. By region, the biggest decreases in smoking rates over the past 4 years have occurred in the South West (from 18.7% to 15.5%), in the North East (22% to 18.7%) and in Yorkshire and Humber (21.9% to 18.6%).

Professor Kevin Fenton, PHE’s national director of health and wellbeing, said: “While it is amazing that there are over twice as many ex-smokers as current smokers in England, there are still over 7 million people regularly lighting up.

“Alongside unhealthy diet, smoking is the biggest cause of preventable early death in England, accounting for over 78,000 deaths a year. Quitters will soon see they have reduced blood pressure, easier breathing and better circulation. Stopping smoking is the best thing a smoker can do to improve their health.”

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