UK’s tobacco control plan aims for 'smoke-free generation'
England can become "smoke free", ministers have said, as they announced plans to cut the number of smokers.
Unveiling its new Tobacco Control Plan, the UK Government set out a range of targets aimed at adult smokers, teenagers and pregnant women.
It wants to cut smoking rates among adults to 12% or under by 2022, from 15.5% at present.
Smoking among 15-year-olds who regularly smoke should also drop by 2022 from 8% to 3% or less.
Ministers also want to almost halve smoking in pregnancy by 2022, from 10.7% at present to 6% or under.
The UK’s drive to become ‘smoke free’ will further intensify focus on smoking and public health in Gibraltar, which has the third highest smoking rate in the European Union.
An EU-wide survey published earlier this year by the European Commission ahead of World No Tobacco Day found that the highest smoking rates were in Greece (37%), Bulgaria, France (both 36%) and Croatia (35%).
The Commission’s survey, which sampled 27,901 respondents from across the EU, did not mention Gibraltar specifically.
However a lifestyle survey published by the Gibraltar Health Survey in December 2016 found 35% of respondents here said they smoked, up from 29% in 2008.
The figures for younger smokers in Gibraltar were of even greater concern, with 37% of respondents in the youngest age group saying they smoked, according to the GHA data.
Taken together, the findings of the two surveys indicate that the prevalence of smoking in Gibraltar is among the highest in Europe.
The UK Government said it wants to set a "bold ambition for a smoke-free generation" as it unveiled its plan for England.
Being "smoke free" means that smoking rates fall to 5% or under, with one in 20 people or fewer smoking.
Under the plan, local areas will be encouraged to develop their own tobacco control strategies and local smoke-free pregnancy champions will encourage mothers-to-be to quit.
There will also be a focus on using e-cigarettes and other stop-smoking devices as aids to quitting.
Public Health England (PHE) will update its evidence report on e-cigarettes and other devices annually until the end of 2022 and include messages about the relative safety of e-cigarettes in stop-smoking campaigns.
Ministers will also use the UK's exit from the EU to "identify where we can sensibly deregulate without harming public health".
The report said this would include looking again at the Tobacco Products Directive, including as it applies to e-cigarettes.
Other measures announced include more help for smokers working in the NHS to quit, and working towards a "completely smoke-free NHS estate".
There will also be more help for smokers with mental health problems - figures show that more than 40% of adults with a serious mental illness smoke.
All mental health inpatient services sites will also aim to be smoke free by 2018, and prisons will get more support to become smoke free.
There are currently 7.3 million adult smokers in England and more than 200 people a day die from a smoking-related illness which could have been prevented.
The difference in life expectancy between the poorest and the richest can be as much as nine years - with smoking accounting for about half of this difference.