Department of Health and Social Care
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Statistics out today show that there are around 1.2 million fewer smokers in England since the Smoking Kills White Paper in 1998. The new figures in the General Household Survey show that there has been a reduction of 400,000 smokers within the last year. This steady decline means that the proportion of the population who smoke has declined from a 28% in 1998 to 25% in 2003. These are the lowest smoking rates in England on record and indicate that the Government is on track to meet the target of 21% smoking prevalence in 2010.

Welcoming the new figures, Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson said:

"I am delighted to see that the action that we first recommended in the Smoking Kills White Paper is having a real impact in reducing the numbers of people who smoke. The figures out today are the first to encompass the new cigarette pack warnings, the advertising ban and the hard hitting media campaign on smoking around children and babies. Although these are measures which will have a long term effect on people's behaviour, it is encouraging that within the period of a year there are around 400,000 fewer smokers in the country.

"We are by no means complacent. The recent Public Health White Paper sets out more action on smoking in public places and the plans to extend and improve the NHS Stop Smoking Services. Seven out of ten smokers want to give up and we are committed to providing the right environment and support for them to take this decision and stick to it."

On the same day as these statistics were published, the UK ratified the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This is the first international treaty on public health and has the potential to make a real difference in tobacco control at a global level by committing all parties to the following measures:

- Comprehensive bans on the advertising and promotion of tobacco products.
- Labelling of tobacco products to warn about the dangers of smoking. - Education about the health effects of tobacco.
- Greater controls on the smuggling of tobacco.
- Protection of the public from the effects of secondhand smoke - Measures to reduce the availability and promotion of tobacco to young people.

Note to Editors

1. The General Household Survey results are produced by the Office of National Statistics and are available on their website:

2. Smoking prevalence in England recorded as percentages of the population are:

1998 28%
2000 27%
2001 27%
2002 26%
2003 25%

3. The Public Health White Paper can be found on the Department of Health website:

4. The White Paper Smoking Kills (December 1998) announced an initiative to set up smoking cessation services in the NHS. This contained three key targets to tackle smoking prevalence among young people; adults; and pregnant women.

5. The establishment of Stop Smoking Services in the NHS is an important element of the Government's strategy for tackling smoking in recognition that many smokers want to stop, but find it hard to do so. The services are just one part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy which includes a ban on tobacco advertising, a wide-ranging media campaign, larger and starker health warnings on cigarette packets and action to tackle secondhand smoke.

6. The NHS Smoking Helpline (0800 169 0 169) gives help and advice to smokers to quit, and can offer information on where to access their local NHS stop smoking service.

7. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control will come in to force at the end of March 2005. The first was Conference of the Parties must be held within a year from that date and may well be during the UK presidency of the EU. Only those countries that have ratified the treaty can take part in this vital first formal meeting.

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