Smoking rate has dropped in South Tyneside
Public Health England says the habit is in terminal decline and that a smoke-free generation is in sight.
But campaign group Action on Smoking and Health has called on the Government to impose a “polluter pays” levy on the tobacco industry to help end smoking by 2035.
The latest Office for National Statistics data shows that 18.8% of people aged 18 and over in South Tyneside were smokers last year.
The rate has fallen since 2012, the first year local data was collected, when it stood at 21.8%.
The local trend broadly reflects that across England, where the smoking rate hit a seven-year low of 14.4%.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said: “Smoking in England is in terminal decline, with the lowest number of smokers ever and a smoke-free generation now in sight.
“This is really positive news in the battle against the nation’s biggest killer.
“Unfortunately, smoking rates remain high among people on lower incomes and those experiencing mental health problems, and every effort and means to support them quitting is where we need to most focus.”
Of the non-smokers in South Tyneside, 29.6% had kicked the habit and 51.6% had never lit up.
The national figures show unemployed people were almost twice as likely to smoke as those with jobs.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, called on the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock to include a pledge to end smoking by 2035 in the coming Prevention Green Paper.
The document will set out how the Government plans to put prevention at the heart of public health care.
She said: “Ending smoking by 2035 is a worthy ambition for the Prevention Green Paper.
“To do so would make the single most significant contribution to delivering the Government’s goal of five extra healthy years of life, while narrowing health inequalities between the richest and poorest.
“However, to achieve the end of smoking will require innovative new policies and funding – business as usual will not suffice.
“The Government must respond to public demand and impose a ‘polluter pays’ levy on the tobacco industry, as well as implementing tougher laws on smoking, such as increasing the age of sale for cigarettes to 21.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it had taken bold action to reduce smoking rates, including the introduction of standardised packaging for cigarettes, making it illegal to smoke in a car with a child, and covering up tobacco products in shops.