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Targets and Opportunities

Analysis conducted by British American Tobacco claims to show that the UK government will miss its 2030 Smoke-free target unless it embraces opportunities from new sources

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Just two out of 11 UK regions, the North West and South East, are on course to hit the Government’s new 2030 smoke-free target (below 5%), according to new research by British American Tobacco UK (BAT). Northern Ireland and the East Midlands will miss green paper smoke-free target by widest margin based on current trajectory. The company argues that the government should make use of its knowledge of smoking habits.

The Government recently published its green paper ‘Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s’, outlining its strategy to reduce the smoking rate to below 5% of the population by 2030. Smoking levels vary considerably depending on where you are in the UK and by analysing ONS trends from 2011 to 2018,

The North West is set to have the lowest smoking level by 2030, at just 4% of its population, thanks to the steep rate of decline it has seen over the last eight years, while the South East, which currently boasts the lowest smoking rate in the UK, is on course to have a smoking population of 4.9% by 2030.

At the other end of the spectrum, Northern Ireland will need impactful new policies if it is to reach the 2030 target as its current trajectory gives it a smoking rate of 10.5% in 2030, while the East Midlands, on course for 9.3% by 2030, will also need to see a faster rate of decline.

Men and women have seen equal average annual rates of decline in smoking over the last eight years and are both on course to miss out on the Government’s 2030 target. Female smoking rate on course to fall to 5.2% by 2030, while male smoking rate is set for 7.6%. To hit 2030 target, local and national government must work in collaboration with e-cigarette businesses already highly committed to getting smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives argues BAT.

As a whole, the UK is on course to narrowly miss out on the 2030 target, with the current trajectory putting the smoking rate at 6.4% - roughly 3.2million people based on today’s population. The age group that is seeing the fastest rate of smoking decline is 18-24-year-olds, while over-65s are experiencing the slowest rate of decline.

While most regions are on course to miss the Government’s target, many local councils, who are responsible for local tobacco cessation programmes, refuse to work with or seek advice from e-cigarette manufacturers such as BAT. This is despite highly successful trials using e-cigarettes within stop smoking services, such as that of Birmingham City Council, who reported an 83% quit rate after a 2016 test with nine pharmacies. The report is linked below.

Will Hill, BAT’s Head of legal and external affairs, said: “The Government’s green paper rightly identifies e-cigarettes as a highly effective tool for quitting and it’s no coincidence that their rise in usage in the UK has coincided with us becoming a country with the second lowest smoking rate in Europe.”

“As manufacturers of the UK’s leading e-cigarette brand, we had hoped to work with the national and local Government to ensure that every region hits this ambitious 2030, smoke-free target. However, smokers who join their local stop smoking services are being denied access to the full range of alternatives available to them.”

“BAT UK is on a transformational journey and is committed to using our knowledge of what smokers want from nicotine products to help offer a range of e-cigarette products and other alternative potentially reduced risk nicotine products. We believe our diverse range of alternative nicotine products can help local councils achieve the Government’s ambitious targets and we are ready to support and share our knowledge of smokers wherever we can”.


  • Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNA) 2018 by Birmingham City Council – [link]
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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