A new study has shown that a surge in smoking during the Covid-19 pandemic has reversed a 40-year decline in the habit.
Richard Sloggett, a former policy adviser to Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock, has conducted an analysis which shows the proportion of smokers rose in England from 14.8 per cent to 15 per cent in the year to March 2021, a total of seven million people.
This increase marks only the second rise in the past 14 years - with the other increase being in 2014-2015 - and reverses a long-running declining smoking trend, as the proportion of smokers has dropped by two-thirds from 45 per cent in 1974.
Sloggett's study projected that there will be 600,000 more smokers than previously expected next year as more people have picked up the habit to help them cope with the stress of the pandemic, meaning the government will have a "virtually impossible" task of meeting its target of reducing smoking to five per cent of the population by 2030.
Sloggett has projected that the percentage will be around 7.1 per cent in 2030 and the five per cent target won't be met until 2033.
The biggest increase in smoking was seen among the 18 to 24 age group, with 31.8 per cent saying that had smoked at some stage compared to 24.3 per cent in 2019.
"A major package of national action needs to be introduced this year including local targeted support to get back on track to eliminating smoking in England. Doing so will be fundamental to levelling-up the health inequalities that have been so clearly exposed by the pandemic," said Sloggett, founder of the think tank Future Health, reports the Telegraph.