Nearly 8 million lives lost to smoking in the last 50 years

A new analysis by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) shows that nearly 8 million people have lost their lives due to smoking in the last 50 years and it is estimated that another 2 million will die over the next 20 years if smoking rates remain unchanged.

In 1970, the UK had the highest death rate from smoking in the world with half of male deaths and a quarter of male deaths in middle age caused by smoking. If smoking rates were the same as 50 years ago there would be an additional 18 million smokers and their life expectancy would be reduced by 10 years.

50 years on from the establishment of ASH, which calls for action to reduced harms form smoking, the government pledged to make the UK smokefree by 2030. However it is estimated that we will not meet until 7 years later and for those smokers living n the most deprived areas this goal won’t be met until at least 14 years after 2030.

To mark their 50th anniversary, ASH has launched an online commemoration of those who have lost their lives to smoking. People can add their tributes to loved ones here.


Cllr Alison Griffiths, Surrey County Councillor and former smoker:

“This year I was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. I started smoking at 12 and I was 45 when I was diagnosed and finally stopped. Finding out my life is coming to an end has been unbelievably tough, not just for me but my family too.

I share our Government’s vision of a country without smoking and I urge them from the bottom of my heart to take the action needed to make it happen. Every day we wait more children are starting and I know how hard it is to stop, once you’ve started. My grandchildren deserve a future without smoking.

I urge all smokers to seriously consider quitting before it’s just too late, you think it will never happen to you, but it can and it does, unfortunately I am living proof.”


Dr Andrew Goddard, President of the Royal College of Physicians:

“When the RCP had the vision to set up ASH 50 years ago, my predecessors knew the scale of the challenge to reduce death and disease from smoking, against the all-pervasive influence of the tobacco industry and its cosy relationship with government at the time. 

ASH has proved itself over and over again as an effective organisation, not just for its own work, but its vital role in supporting and maintaining the wider tobacco alliances of like-minded bodies, coordinating campaigning efforts to make us all work better together. 

There is still much work to do, particularly in the field of health inequalities, and it is time for the government, the NHS and the new public health structures to intensify their efforts in this area to speed up the pace of change.  Until we have a smokefree society, we will still need ASH, and I am proud to work alongside them to campaign until that day.”

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Nearly 8 million lives lost to smoking in the last 50 years