Smoking rate at all-time low as ex-smokers outnumber smokers two to one

The smoking rate in England has dropped below 17% for the first time, according to official data that show ex-smokers now outnumber people who smoke by more than two to one.

Just 16.9% of the UK population smoke, and 14.6m people are ex-smokers - compared with just 7.2m active smokers, latest figures from Public Health England show.

Sales of tobacco have plummeted in recent years, latest data suggest, falling 20% in England and Wales in the last two years alone.

The data have been released ahead of the 2016 Stoptober campaign. During last year's campaign, of 2.5m people who tried to quit smoking a total of 500,000 were successful.

Smoking cessation

The largest decreases in smoking over the last four years can be seen in south-west England, where the smoking rate fell from 18.7% to 15.5%, north-east England (22% to 18.7%) and in Yorkshire and Humber (21.9% to 18.6%).

Deputy CMO Dr Gina Radford said: 'While we know that quitting smoking is not easy, this Stoptober is a perfect time to try again. The best thing a smoker can do for their health is to stop smoking. 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.'

The decline in smoking rates has continued since the introduction in England of a ban on smoking in enclosed public places in July 2007. In 2006, 22% of the British population were smokers.

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