The Government will not meet its current target to curb the number of smokers in England by 2030, according to new analysis.
In 2019 ministers set out an ambition for England to become “smoke-free” by 2030 – which is said to be achieved when adult smoking rates fall to 5% or less.
But Cancer Research UK said that it may take almost an extra decade for the target to be met.
The charity said that progress in cutting the number of smokers has “slowed”.
Based on current trends, the Government will not achieve its goal until 2039, it said.
A new report from the charity adds that in 2030, some 8.3% of the population will describe themselves as smokers.
Cancer Research UK has called for Health Secretary Steve Barclay to do more to curb smoking rates, including to consider raising the age at which people can buy cigarettes and to invest more in stop-smoking services.
If the Government cannot afford this, it should make the tobacco industry “foot the bill”, the charity added.
The charity also called for the Government to respond to the Khan review, published in June, on making smoking obsolete.
“Smoking remains the largest preventable cause of cancer and death in the UK, but the Government has the power to change this,” said Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK.
“With bold action and strong leadership, we can ensure a future free of tobacco for reducing cancer and saving lives.
“We urge Steve Barclay to continue his legacy of being bold with tobacco control to reduce the number of people getting and dying of smoking-related cancers, relieve the pressure on the NHS, and save the country billions of pounds each year.”
Professor Charles Swanton, chief clinician of Cancer Research UK, added: “Quitting smoking is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions.
“But people are rarely successful on their own – they need support and the right tools to help them quit.
“Despite this, budgets for stop-smoking services have been repeatedly cut, and access varies greatly across the country.
“If the Government is serious about a smoke-free England, action to create an environment that makes it easier for people to live healthy lives will be key.
“It must take on board the recommendations from the Khan review and publish a plan to stop people from ever starting to smoke and help people quit.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The Government remains committed to its Smokefree ambition by 2030, and the action we are taking means smoking rates in England are at an all-time low.
“We continue to enforce strong regulations around the sale of cigarettes which help smokers to quit and protect future generations from starting this lethal addiction.
“We are currently considering the wide range of recommendations set out in the Khan Review and how best to take these forward – with next steps to be set out in due course.”
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