The latest Government data released show that smoking rates among British adults declined by 2% overall between 2005 and 2006, from 24% to 22%. [1] Among routine and manual groups smoking prevalence also fell by 2% from 31% in 2005 to 29% in 2006. Although the overall number of cigarettes smoked per person has not changed significantly: men smoked on average 15 cigarettes a day and women 13 a day - consumption levels remain higher among smokers in manual socio-economic groups than professional groups.

ASH believes the results show the importance of having a range of tobacco control policies in place. The combined effect of the tobacco advertising ban, the provision of the stop smoking services and the mass media campaigns in particular will all have had a major part to play in helping people to stop smoking and in dissuading young people from taking up the habit.

Although this is positive news, ASH is urging the Government not to be complacent. With just under a quarter of the adult population still smoking, the health and economic burden on the NHS will continue to be felt for many years to come.

Responding to the news, Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:

"The Government should be congratulated for this impressive result which shows what can be achieved if resources are given to tackling tobacco use. However, in order to drive smoking rates down even further it's important that the Government builds on recent successes and implements a comprehensive tobacco control strategy.

As part of a review of the future of the NHS, Derek Wanless [the Government's economic adviser] proposed challenging targets to reduce smoking prevalence to 17% by 2010 and to 11% by 2022.. [2] In order to achieve this, the Government must develop a new strategy including proven measures such as raising the tax on tobacco and reducing smuggling as well as increasing controls on the sale of tobacco. "

ASH welcomes the Government's commitment to including tobacco control in its recently announced Cancer Plan and ASH will continue to work with Smokefree Coalition partners to press for a comprehensive tobacco policy.


[1] Smoking and drinking among adults, 2006. General Household Survey 2006. statistics

[2] Wanless D. Securing our Future Health: Taking a Long-Term View. Final Report. London, HM Treasury, 2002. Wanless argued that smoking rates could be reduced to 17% by 2010 and to 11% by 2022 if sufficient resources were given to disease prevention. These targets are significantly more ambitious than the Government's present targets to reduce smoking prevalence overall to 21% or less by 2010, with a reduction in prevalence among routine and manual groups to 26% of less. PSA Delivery Agreement 18: Promote better health and well-being for all. The Treasury, Oct 2007


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