It is ten years since the smoking ban was introduced in England and in the South East it has led to the lowest number of puffers on record.
The number of smokers in the region is at record low of 14.6 per cent, Public Health England said.
Saturday, July 1 marked the tenth anniversary of the ban, which made it illegal for people to light up in pubs and restaurants, train stations and all other enclosed public places in England.
The South East now has one of the lowest smoking rates in England and one of the lowest rates of hospital admissions due to smoking.
The year following England’s smoke free legislation, there was a 2.4 per cent reduction in hospital admissions for heart attack alone.
In the three years following the law’s introduction, there were almost 7,000 fewer hospital admissions for childhood asthma, public Health England said.
Angela Baker, deputy director for health and wellbeing at Public Health England South East said: “The indoor smoking ban in public places was one of the greatest reforms to public health in this country.
“The move, coupled with quit smoking initiatives such as Stoptober and the work of local authority public health teams, has helped to drastically cut the number of smokers by facilitating quit attempts and smoke free lifestyles.
“And not only has the health of smokers benefitted but so too has the health of non-smokers who no longer have to breathe second-hand smoke in pubs, restaurants and bars.
“In the south east of England smoking rates continue to fall across the region and are now the lowest on record at less than 15 per cent.
“Tobacco sales are also in decline as record numbers of people quit smoking. This is good news but there is more work needed to encourage more smokers to kick the habit and give themselves a better chance of staying healthy and avoiding conditions such as lung and oral cancers, coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and strokes.”
The most recent figures also show a significant drop in smoking among younger adults with smoking at an all-time low in those aged 18 to 24 years – an important move towards establishing the first tobacco-free generation.
Dr Mark Signy, consultant interventional cardiologist at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “This is a genuine game-changer. For those of us, particularly in cardiology and chest medicine who daily see and treat the horrible and mostly avoidable diseases and consequences of cigarette smoking, it is terrific to see how rapidly public health innovations such as this have been effective and the degree of improvement over such a short period.
“We are beginning to dare to hope that with both the smoking ban and the use of smoking substitutes we may be moving towards a real non-smoking generation with massive reductions in heart attacks, angina and heart failure as well as lung and other cancers.”
Public Health England says it is working with local authorities and the NHS to enable more hospital trusts to go completely tobacco-free.