Working towards a smoke-free England

Executive summary: Our central forecast estimates that the Government’s smoke-free target will be met around 2040

  1. Our central forecast is for the Government to meet its smoke-free target – to reduce smoking prevalence to 5% or below of England’s adult population – around 2040. This forecast is based on a continuation of current above-inflation excise increases and known regulatory interventions.

2.  If smoking then continued to decline at the same rate after 2040, it would reach 0% in around 2051.

3. Smoking is in long-run decline, but since 2012 it has declined at more than twice the rate seen between 1993 and 2011. Smokers switching to e-cigarettes appear to have made a material contribution to that recent trend.

4. We anticipate that the faster decline in smoking since 2012 will not continue indefinitely. In part this is because the growth of e-cigarettes is now slowing. Data from ASH indicates that there were only 100,000 new vapers in 2017, compared with 800,000 in 2014.

5. The Government’s target of reducing smoking to below 5% could be met as soon as 2029 if the faster rate of decline since 2012 were maintained. If that trend continued further, smoking would be eliminated in England by 2035.

6. Meeting this target by 2029 would require an additional 2.5 million smokers to quit over and above those we already expect to quit in our central forecast. This is equivalent to around 210,000 extra quitters each year.

7. This would require significant changes, such as:

  • A rapid increase in the number of smokers switching to smoke-free alternatives, including e-cigarettes; and/or
  • Reversing the decline in smokers quitting through NHS Stop Smoking services, which decreased to 40,000 in 2016 from a peak of 100,000 in 2011; and/or
  • Finding other new and effective ways to persuade smokers to quit.

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