Half the smokers in England will have kicked the habit by 2020, according to a pledge by Health Secretary Andy Burnham.
The minister announced new targets to lower England’s estimated eight million smokers to four million, effectively cutting the smoking rate from a fifth of the population to 10% over the next decade.
Measures to implement this promise include giving tailored NHS support for quitters and possibly forcing cigarette companies to sell their products in plain packaging.
Mr Burnham said: “Today’s 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.”
An estimated 200,000 young people take up the habit each year, although the Department of Health said the number of smokers has dropped by 25% since 2000, with NHS support helping 337,000 people quit in 2009.
It said smoking costs the health service about £2.7bn per year, with 1.4 million hospital admissions and more than 80,000 deaths caused as a result in 2007.
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