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'Battle not yet won' as number of smokers falls by half a million

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15.5% of adults were smokers in 2016 15.5% of adults were smokers in 2016

‘The battle is not won yet’, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), as Public Health England (PHE) reports a significant drop in smoking among adults across the country.

It was reported in 2015 that 16.9% of adults in England were smokers, but the 2016 figure has now been revealed at 15.5% of adults, meaning the UK now has the second lowest smoking rate in Europe.

READ MORE: Personalised smoking cessation sessions can improve quit attempts

This means there were over half a million fewer smokers in England over the course of a year.

PHE celebrated the figures but insisted there is more to do as large gaps still exist between the richest and poorest areas of the country – with the highest rates in England being five times higher than the lowest.

Chief executive of PHE Duncan Selbie said: ‘While these gaps persist there is still much work to be done, but these latest figures give us real hope.

READ MORE: Stop smoking services under threat from budget cuts

‘It’s now hard to believe that back in 1974 almost half of adults smoked, but now an end really is in sight and we have a real opportunity to virtually eliminate all the harm, misery and death caused by smoking.’

The RCN responded positively to the news, but insisted smoking tobacco is still one of the biggest killers in adults.

RCN head of nursing Wendy Preston said: ‘Smoking rates are improving, but the battle is not won yet. Smoking tobacco causes early death in over half its users, and much unseen suffering from co-morbidities.

READ MORE: Stop smoking service may help mental health symptoms

‘Primary care nurses see this on a daily basis and play a pivotal role in promoting healthy choices, both for patients and their families. This includes intervention advice and referring to, or providing a full NHS stop smoking service, including behavioural support and medication.’

PHE also revealed smoking in young adults had fallen by a ‘staggering’ quarter since 2010, which reverses a long-time trend.

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