The number of people smoking in England has hit the lowest levels on record, according to Public Health England (PHE) figures.
In 2015, smoking levels decreased to 16.9% in England, PHE’s Annual Population Survey (APS) shows. This is down from 17.8% in 2014.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention, said: “Smoking is still the biggest preventable cause of cancer, so it’s good to see that smoking rates are at a record low.
“But today’s data shows large regional variations that reflect health inequalities between the richest and poorest in England.
“The NHS has said that its future sustainability relies on an upgrade in public health and preventing disease, but a reduction in the number of people smoking won’t happen on its own. We need well-funded tools to help smokers to quit, like local stop-smoking services, but cuts to public health budgets are making it harder for smokers to get this support.
“The government must make good on its promise of an ambitious new tobacco strategy, and provide sustainable funding to deliver it.”
Regionally, smoking prevalence is higher than the England average in the East Midlands (18%), North East (18.7%), North West (18.6%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (18.6%).
Smoking rates among those in routine and manual occupations still remain stubbornly high, although they have decreased to 26.5% from 28% the previous year.
The figures also show a clear connection between potential years of life lost due to smoking-related illnesses and deprivation. People are almost more than twice as likely to die early from smoking-related diseases in the poorest areas compared to the wealthiest.
And it seems fewer people are successfully setting a date to quit, with the number setting a ‘quit date’ dropping to 5,549 per 100,000 people.
Particularly worrying is the figure for Yorkshire and the Humber (4,102 per 100,000 people) as this area has a very high prevalence of smokers.