More smokers are quitting this year because of pandemic health fears, says Public Health England

Quitting smoking has become the number one lifestyle change this year, Public Health England has announced. 

The proportion of people who have successfully quit smoking this year is at its highest in more than a decade, new figures show.

Data from the UCL Smoking Toolkit Study shows that in England in 2020, there has been an increase of almost two thirds in the quitting success rate, rising from 14 per cent to 23 per cent, the highest since at least 2007.

There has also been a surge in smokers in England trying to quit, increasing by 22 per cent from 2019, with experts saying attitudes have been changed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) calculates more than a million people in the UK stopped smoking in the lockdown period. Smoking prevalence in England is also at an all-time low of 13.9 per cent.

Scott Crosby, tobacco control programme manager at Public Health England, told the PA news agency: “The pandemic has affected … our personal health and vulnerability to illness and we want to see how we can build our immune system.

“So there’s multiple reasons for this, obviously being in lockdown with family and friends and not being able to socialise but I think the growing importance of people’s personal health has really increased over that time.

Mr Crosby added: “It’s brought it to the top of the to-do list.”

It comes as health organisations including Ash, the British Lung Foundation, British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK have backed the Stoptober campaign calling for more people to quit their smoking habits.

Stoptober challenges people to give up smoking for 28 days, making them five times more likely to quit for good, according to research.

Mr Crosby said: “Stoptober is back in its ninth year and it’s a little bit different because of the pandemic and we’re really looking to raise awareness of the damage to the airways.

“We’ve got a viral respiratory disease at the moment, and what you can do to help protect your health and boost your immune system is to quit and that’s the biggest thing you can do for your health at any time, never mind during a pandemic.”

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, Jo Churchill said: “It has never been more important to take care of ourselves, and quitting smoking is a great way to start.

“With smoking rates already at an all-time low and 2020 seeing more people stopping than ever, I urge all smokers to join in Stoptober to improve their health and help England become a smoke-free society by 2030.”

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