Smoking rates across England are the lowest on record

Updated: 

Smoking rates across England are at an all time low!

Remarkably, in England there are now twice as many ex-smokers (14.6 million people) than current smokers (7.2 million), according to Public Health England (PHE) - with the South West leading the way with only 15.5% smokers.

PHE has released regional figures on areas that have seen the biggest decreases in smoking rates over the last four years.

Smoking prevalence across England by region

Smoking rates in the South West have fallen from 18.7% to 15.5%, in the North East the percentage of smokers has fallen from 22% to 18.7% and in Yorkshire and Humber the number of smokers dipped from 21.9% to 18.6%.

Highest and lowest smoking prevalence in England, by local area

But according to Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing at PHE, there is still a long way to go.

He said: "There are still over seven million people regularly lighting up. Alongside unhealthy diet, smoking is the biggest cause of preventable early death in England, accounting for over 78,000 deaths a year."

The figures were released as the health body launched its annual Stoptober campaign to encourage the nation's remaining smokers to quit for the month of October.

The campaign will be focused online this year, with £500,000 being ploughed into Facebook advertising.

Celebrities such as Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood, former cricketer Phil Tufnell and singer Natasha Hamilton will also be taking part in the challenge.

Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "We know that smoking is the number one cause of preventable early death. On top of this human cost, smoking has been estimated to cost the economy over £10 billion a year. We therefore support public health campaigns like Stoptober."