England will fail to be smoke-free by 2030 if current smoking trends continue, Cancer Research UK has warned.
Figures released by the charity suggest England is not expected to be smoke-free until 2037 – seven years behind the ambitious target set last year.
It warned that unless smoking in the poorest communities is tackled, health inequalities will remain rife.
The new projections show a 20-year gap in smoking rates between the least and most deprived people in England, with the richest expected to achieve smoke-free in 2025 and the poorest not reaching it until the mid-2040s.
The government hopes that 2030 will be the year when England can call itself smoke-free – which means getting the overall proportion of adults who smoke down to 5%.
At the moment, 14% of adults in England smoke cigarettes.
Cancer Research said reinvesting in stop smoking services and national education campaigns that encourage smokers to quit will be essential, yet both have had significant cuts in recent years.
In order to reach its ambition, smoking rates need to drop 40% faster than projected.
The charity believes there are actions the government must urgently take to achieve its ambitions, including a fixed annual charge on the tobacco industry which would provide funding to reduce the £11bn burden smoking-related illnesses cost society in England every year.
This money could help provide more funding for stop smoking services, it said.
Dr Katrina Brown, Cancer Research UK’s statistics manager and report co-author, stated that smoking is the biggest cause of cancer, leading to around 120 cases of cancer in England every day.