England cannot become smoke-free until 2039 claims Cancer Research UK
By: Chandrashekar Bhat
England cannot become smoke-free until 2039 as the progress in getting people to quit cigarettes has “slowed”, an anti-cancer charity has said.
The government in 2019 set a target for England to be smoke-free by 2030, meaning only 5 per cent of the population would smoke by then. But Cancer Research UK said it would take at least nine more years to achieve the objective.
It said a million people would contract cancer from cigarettes by 2040 unless the government took tougher action on smoking.
It has urged the government to do more, including raising the legal age for buying tobacco from 18, so that people who were born after a designated year could never buy cigarettes legally.
Data showed 13.3 per cent of the population – about 6.6 million – smoked in 2021, down from 14 per cent in 2020 and 20.2 per cent in 2011.
However, the charity said smoking rates should drop 70 per cent faster to reach the goal of being smoke-free by 2030.
Smoking could result in a million cancer cases between now and 2040 if the current trends continued, Cancer Research said.
Its chief clinician, Professor Charles Swanton, said: “Quitting smoking is one of the most popular new year’s resolutions, but people are rarely successful on their own — they need support and the right tools to help them quit. Despite this, budgets for stop-smoking services have been repeatedly cut, and access varies greatly across the country.”
“If the government is serious about a smoke-free England, action to create an environment that makes it easier for people to live healthy lives will be key. It must take on board the recommendations from the Khan review [which looked into whether the 2030 target was being met] and publish a plan to stop people from ever starting to smoke and help people quit,” he said.
Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “Smoking remains the largest preventable cause of cancer and death in the UK, but the government has the power to change this. With bold action and strong leadership, we can ensure a future free of tobacco for reducing cancer and saving lives.”