A new Frontier study, published today, finds that the Government’s ambition for England to achieve a ‘smoke-free generation’ – defined as an adult smoking prevalence rate of 5% or below – is on track to be achieved in 2040. This is based on long-run trends in smoking prevalence, taking into account known policy reforms including increases in tobacco excise duty and regulatory changes. If the more rapid decline in smoking seen in recent years were to be maintained, the ambition could be met as soon as 2029, eleven years earlier.
The study, funded by Philip Morris Limited and prepared independently by Frontier, shows that around 27% of adults smoked in the mid-1990s, compared with just 16% in 2016. On an annual basis, smoking rates declined more than twice as fast between 2012 and 2016 than between 1993 and 2011. A material part of this decline is because of a switch to e-cigarettes: around 1.5 million former smokers have converted fully to e-cigarettes in England. However, without other changes it is unlikely this rapid decline will persist given a recent slowdown in the uptake of e-cigarettes.
Achieving 5% prevalence by 2029 rather than 2040 would require around 2.5 million more people to quit by 2029 than implied by our central forecast. This would require significant changes, such as a rapid increase in the number of smokers switching to smoke-free alternatives such as e-cigarettes, or increased use of NHS Stop Smoking services.
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