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Number of smokers in Kent show major drop according to ONS figures

By Chris Britcher

The number of smokers across the county is dropping rapidly - led by young adults finally turning their back on the deadly habit.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal significant declines along with a significant rise in the number of people who have never smoked in recent years, with health experts putting that down to the ban on tobacco advertising.

However, while figures reveal the numbers lighting up are plunging across Kent, Thanet bucks the trend with the highest number of smokers in the whole of the south east.

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Almost one in four people in Thanet smoke - four times as many smokers as in Christchurch, Dorset, where just 4.6% of people smoke, the lowest percentage in Britain.

Worryingly the number of smokers in Thanet is not dropping, despite a sustained anti-tobacco strategy from the government.

In 2011, 23.7% of Thanet's population smoked, the same as the 2017 figure.

Across the south east the rate was 13.7% in 2017.

Elsewhere, the message to stub it out is clearly making inroads.

Dartford saw a 36% drop, Canterbury and Dover saw numbers drop by almost a third (29%) while Swale and Medway both saw a 27% decrease.

In 1974 the number of smokers above the age of 16 was 51.4% of the national population. In 2017 it stood at just 18.7%.

Meanwhile, the number of those who have never smoked has risen from 24.4% in 1974 to 54.3%.

And that's being put down 18 to 24-year-olds choosing not to smoke.

Nationally this age group has had the biggest drop in smoking.

Last year, across Britain, 17.8% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they were current smokers, compared with 2011 when more than a quarter smoked.

Deborah Arnott, Action on Smoking and Health chief executive, said: "The brightly coloured pack displays we used to have in shops disappeared completely in 2015 and the packs they do see nowadays are a sludgy green colour, with large picture warnings, rather than the brightly coloured, highly branded packs we used to have.

"Is it any wonder young people today increasingly choose not to smoke? It's much less cool than it used to be."

The smoking landscape has changed dramatically over recent years as a result of increased awareness of health risks and government intervention.

From the smoking ban in pubs and workplaces in 2007 to soaring prices - a box of 20 cigarettes now retails for around £10 - to the boom in e-cigarettes, the number of smokers has long been on the decline.

The ONS estimates there are 2.8 million vapers in Britain, and almost half said their reason for taking it up was to stop smoking.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said: "Smoking rates have dropped by almost a quarter in five years, a triumphant step in eliminating the nation's biggest killer.

"The data shows we are winning the war on tobacco and that we are tantalisingly close to creating the first-ever smoke-free generation in England.

"But that war will only be won if we make more progress in helping people from deprived areas and people suffering from poor mental health, where we know smoking rates remain stubbornly high."

For help on quitting, call the NHS service, One You Kent on 0300 123 1220 or visit www.oneyoukent.org.uk

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