Government looks set to miss smoke-free target, charity warns

The Government looks set to fail on its ambition for England to be smoke-free by 2030, a leading cancer charity has warned.

Cancer Research UK said current smoking trends suggest it will be 2037 before England is smoke-free, and that smoking rates need to drop 40% faster than projected for the target to be hit.

The Government pledged last July to end smoking in England by 2030 as part of a range of measures to tackle the causes of preventable ill health.

Smoke-free means just 5% of adults in England will smoke – a dramatic reduction from the 14% who smoke at present.

Cancer Research UK said the ambition is being hindered by cuts to stop-smoking services and national campaigns, and the gap between the least and most deprived people in England.

It says the richest group in England can expect to be smoke-free in 2025, but the poorest will not be smoke-free until the mid-2040s.

The charity also wants a fixed annual charge on the tobacco industry to help fund stop-smoking services.

Dr Katrina Brown, Cancer Research UK statistics manager and report co-author, said: “Our modelling suggests that if the 2030 target is achieved, there could be around 3.4 million fewer smokers in England compared with today.

“But unless Government acts to make smoking rates fall faster, we’re unlikely to reach the target.

“Smoking is the biggest cause of cancer, leading to around 120 cases of cancer in England every day, so it’s vital that the Government tackles tobacco to prevent illness and suffering.”

Smoking kills around 115,000 people in the UK every year.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: “Smoking – and its catastrophic impact on health – remains more common within poorer communities.

“So more funding is needed to help these disadvantaged groups to quit as they are increasingly being left behind.

“The tobacco industry makes more money every year than Coca-Cola, Disney, Google, McDonald’s and FedEx combined, while its products continue to kill people.

“It should be made to pay for the damage it causes, which is why we’re calling on the Government to introduce an annual charge on the industry to fund these vital services that will help get England smoke-free by 2030.

“The Government must act now if they are to see this smoke-free ambition become a reality.”

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