There could be an extension of the current smoking ban in public places

There could be an extension of the current smoking ban in public places

A plan to halve the number of smokers in England over the next 10 years has been unveiled by ministers.

The number of people smoking has fallen by a quarter in the past decade to 21%, and the proposed target is 10% by 2020.

Measures being considered include removing branding from packets and banning cigarette vending machines, as will happen in Scotland next year.

Smokers’ lobby group Forest criticised the proposals for eroding people’s ability to make lifestyle choices.

Health charity Ash said that while it supported the plans in principle, there was a need for more detail and stronger pledges.

Quit help

The government strategy includes a commitment to try to stop young people taking up smoking by cracking down on illegally imported cheap cigarettes.

Every smoker will be able to get help from the NHS to suit them if they want to give up.And there will be a review of smoking legislation, which could see public bans extended to places such as the entrances of buildings.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: “We’ve come so far and now we’ll go even further, to push forward and save even more lives.

“This strategy renews our commitment to virtually eradicate the health harms caused by smoking, and I firmly believe we can halve smoking by 2020. In 10 years’ time, only one-in-10 people will smoke.”

He added: “We will always help people to quit, and smokers should never stop trying. That’s the beauty of the NHS – it’s there to help everyone.

“One day, in the not too distant future, we’ll look back and find it hard to remember why anyone ever smoked in the first place.”

‘Devastating impact’

The government said each year smoking caused 80,000 deaths and cost the NHS £2.7bn.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said the strategy would “discourage children from taking up smoking and prevent a great number of unnecessary and early deaths”.

The smoking ban in enclosed public places was introduced in Scotland in 2006, and in England, Wales and Northern Ireland separately in 2007.

Forest said the ban had had a “devastating impact” on community pubs and further restrictions would accelerate that trend.

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