Kicking the habit - but when? Wide regional variation in meeting smoke-free goals

New Frontier analysis, published today, finds that England is on track to achieve a 'smoke-free generation' - defined as an adult smoking prevalence rate of 5% or below - by 2040. This could be achieved as soon as 2029 if more recent rapid declines in smoking prevalence are maintained.  But there is wide regional variation: some areas, such as Bristol and York, could reach 5% prevalence as soon as 2021. Others, such as Derby and North Lincolnshire, would still be above 5% even beyond 2040.

The study, funded by Philip Morris Limited and prepared independently by Frontier, updates and extends previous analysis (link) drawing on more recent English smoking prevalence data and local level figures. Other key findings are that:

  • Smoking prevalence has fallen from 27% in the mid-1990s to 14.9% in 2017. A material part of this comes from a switch to e-cigarettes: around 1.5 million former smokers have converted fully to e-cigarettes in England.
  • 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.
  • There is widespread variation in smoking prevalence across the country. In Kingston-upon-Hull, 23% of adults smoked in 2017 compared with 9% in Wokingham. More deprived areas tend to have higher smoking prevalence rates.

The ambition to achieve a ‘smoke-free generation’ was set out by the Department of Health in its 2017 Tobacco Control Plan.

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Working towards a smoke-free England