ONLY five areas in England are set to meet the government's 2030 smoke free pledge – with plans to crack down on outdoor smoking.
Hammersmith and Fulham, West London, and Oxfordshire are set to be the two districts to reach the government target, five years early in 2025.
The London borough was reported to have one of the highest smoking rates in London in 2016, but the latest PHE data shows that 7.54 per cent of smokers in the borough quit annually.
Westminster is set to reach the target in 2028, with a quit rate of 5.47 per cent, closely followed by the Wirral and Sefton in 2029 – who both have quit rates of almost five per cent.
It comes after Oxfordshire pledged to make the county smoke free, and ban smoking in outdoor dining areas and workplace break spots.
The county hopes to be the first in England to go completely smoke-free by 2025, under a plan agreed by public health officials before the pandemic began.
The priorities for the county's smoking strategy this year include creating more spaces where people feel “empowered” not to smoke.
This would include encouraging employers to stop the habit outside offices and factories, or by creating smoke-free areas in newly created pavement dining areas.
Oxfordshire's public health director, Ansaf Azhar last week described the strategy as a "long game" to change smoking culture, with the aim of preventing deaths from diseases linked to tobacco.
MPs called on ministers earlier this year to take advantage of Brexit by slashing tight controls on safer alternatives to ciggies and show what Global Britain is all about.
But campaigners have slammed the move, claiming that it will “persecute no protect” smokers.
Consumer Advocacy group We Vape said the initiative would do nothing other than “normalise” the targeting of vapers within five years and have little effect on tobacco use in the county.
We Vape director Mark Oates said: “Oxfordshire County Council should concentrate on educating current smokers of the alternatives and quitting tools, rather than just persecuting them further.
"We can see in five years this ban moving onto vapers when there is no evidence of passive vaping causing any harm and Public Health England and Cancer Research both stating vaping is an effective quitting tool and is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking.
"This is just a further attack against smokers when we should be advising them on the best ways to quit tobacco – a product we know causes more deaths from cancer than anything else.
“There are 3.2milion vapers in the UK and nearly every single one was a tobacco smoker.
“It is simple common sense to advise on these safer options rather than persecuting people for something they have been doing for years and ultimately fails in stopping them dying from a smoking related disease.”
Staffordshire, Bristol, Worcestershire, Enfield and Havering are the five counties that will be the last to be declared smoke free according to current data.
Havering won’t reach the status until 2983, with a 0.06 per cent quit rate in the London borough, with Enfield not hitting the target until 2816 with a 0.31 per cent quit rate.
Worcestershire will be smoke free in 2440, Bristol in 2310 and Staffodshire in 2289 – with all of the counties having a quit rate of less than 0.3 per cent.
Nearly 1 in 4 people in manual jobs smoke compared to one in ten of those in professional roles, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Cigarette packets currently show blackened lungs, amputated toes, depictions of erectile dysfunction and states the fact smoking kills.
But this messaging is ineffective to smokers’, according to campaigners, who are calling for a review of government measures to eradicate smoking.
Mr Oates added: “We are not going to hit the 2030 smoke free target because of ineffective messaging. The warnings on cigarette packets are stupid and don't work.
“Seeing a pair of blackened lungs on a table doesn't cut through with smokers. It’s gory and if anything makes them smoke more through stress – they have told us this for years.
“What works is informing them of the success stories – the viable alternatives and how useful they can be.
“Fifty to 70,000 quit smoking each year in the UK with the help of vaping. That should be on packets.”
There are 6.9million smokers and 3.2million vapers in the UK, with a country considering itself smoke free if less than five per cent of the population lights up.
England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty recently launched a stinging attack on tobacco firms and said smoking killed more people than Covid last year.
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