England should be a ‘smoke-free society’ by 2030, health chief urges

Health chief calls for millions of smokers to quit within 12 years to save lives and cut NHS bills

England should have NO smokers by 2030: Health chief calls for millions of smokers to quit within 12 years to save lives and cut NHS bills

  • The chief executive of Public Health England has declared war on cigarettes
  • He says smoking is not a lifestyle choice but an addiction needing treatment
  • 14.9 per cent of adults in England smoke tobacco – around 6.3 million people 

All smokers in England should have quit before 2030, a leading health expert has warned.

The chief executive of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie, is calling for the country to go smoke-free within the next 12 years.

Speaking at the NHS England Expo conference last night, he said cutting out cigarettes could save the NHS £900 million a year and prevent thousands of early deaths.

More than six million people smoke and the habit is the leading cause of cancer – it’s responsible for 15 per cent of all cases of the deadly disease.

Mr Selbie says everybody should be given help to stop smoking, saying it is an ‘addiction that warrants medical treatment’, not a lifestyle choice.

The comments came just a day after the NHS revealed one in 10 British women still smoke while they’re pregnant, and a study found last month that the number of teenagers taking up smoking is on the rise.

The chief executive of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie, has said he wants all smokers to quit within the next 12 years in order to save thousands of lives and free up NHS money which is spent on diseases caused by the habit

Mr Selbie, the boss of Public Health England, the government’s national health watchdog, spoke at the annual NHS England Expo in Manchester yesterday.

He declared war on smoking, saying removing it from society would be the single best way to improve people’s health, The Sun reported.

And he said all smokers should be offered help to quit the life-shortening habit.

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Mr Selbie said: ‘Smoking should no longer be seen as a lifestyle choice. It is an addiction that warrants medical treatment.

‘Everyone who smokes must be offered the support they need to quit.

‘With the right long-term plan in place, we can remove smoking from England. This is the single biggest thing we can do to improve the nation’s health.’

Figures released in July this year showed 14.9 per cent of adults – around 6.3 million people – were smokers in 2017, down 200,000 from the previous year.


Children whose fathers smoked before they were even conceived are more than three times more likely to develop asthma, according to research from 2016.

The effect of a mother’s lifestyle on child health is well documented, but this suggests the link is also be true for fathers-to-be.

It is believed sperm cells are damaged by nicotine, affecting a child’s genes.

The study of 24,000 children by the University of Bergen found boys having their first cigarette before the age of 15 put offspring at particular risk.

Both the age at which a father first smoke and the time his habit had lasted before starting a family affected the risk, according to the study in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

The findings added to a growing body of evidence showing men’s behaviour before conception may be vital to a baby’s health. 

But Mr Selbie says he wants that figure to fall below five per cent or, in an ideal world, down to zero.

He has called for a ‘ruthless’ plan from the NHS to tackle the deadly habit, as well as action on heart disease and obesity, both of which are killing people worldwide.

But smoking campaigners say Mr Selbie’s comments amount to ‘bullying’, and smokers have the right to do it if they want to.

‘It’s laughable to think England will be smoke-free within 12 years,’ said Simon Clark, spokesman for smokers’ rights group, Forest.

‘Some people will always want to smoke. It’s their choice and if you’re an adult you have every right to do so.

‘Some smokers would like to quit but many smoke because they enjoy it and no amount of state-sponsored bullying will force them to stop.’

Mr Selbie’s comments came just a day after the NHS released quarterly figures showing 10.4 per cent of expectant mothers across England smoke while they’re pregnant.

Despite scientific evidence that smoking while pregnant increases the chance of stillbirth or an unhealthy baby, women are failing to heed expert advice.

And a study by the University of Bergen in Norway last month revealed the rates of 11 to 15-year-old children taking up smoking is on the rise in Europe.

Starting smoking is falling across all other age groups, but twice as many 11 to 15-year-old girls in Western Europe took up smoking in 2009 as in 1970. 

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