Cigarette company Philip Morris has released a study that suggests that England could be smoke-free by 2040.
As people increasing quit smoking, age or move to cigarette replacements such as e-cigarettes and fewer and fewer people take up the habit, numbers of smokers are dropping, but the study estimates that will take 23 years for them to drop under five percent, which would make the country effectively smoke free.
The study, which was carried out by Frontier Economics Research and funded by the company behind brands like Marlboro, Benson & Hedges, Gauloises and John Player, also suggested that if an extra 219,000 people were able to quit a year then the goal of less than five percent of the population smoking could be achieved in just over a decade, in the year 2029.
"We want a smoke-free country as soon as possible - 2040 is too long to wait," said Peter Nixon, the managing director of Philip Morris Limited.
The Department of Health have long supported anything that drops the smoking rate and say that they are working "towards the first ever smoke-free generation." Recent statistics that 200 people a day are killed by tobacco-related diseases, amounting to 80,000 people a year in the UK. Successive governments have been encouraging people to quit - and new people not to start - for decades, and it seems like the message is finally beginning to take.
A much-heralded Tobacco Control Plan was launched in July that aims to promote electronic cigarettes ahead of regular versions and seeks to cut smoking rates among the young from eight percent of 15-year-olds to just three percent.
There's been a massive rise in people using e-cigs and vaping. Credit: PA
"Britain is a world-leader in tobacco control, and our tough action in the past decade has seen smoking rates in England fall to an all-time low of 15.5 percent," said MP Steve Brine, Minister for Public Health.
"But our vision is to create a smoke free generation. Smoking continues to kill hundreds of people a day in England, and we know the harms fall hardest on some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. That's why we are targeting prevention and local action to address the variation in smoking rates in our society, educate people about the risks and support them to quit for good."
Smoking is thought to cost the NHS billions of pounds a year, with tobacco-related diseases consistently among the major causes of death in the United Kingdom.