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Pledge to halve smoking by 2020

The government is committed to making a 50% reduction in the number of people who smoke in England by 2010, it has been revealed.

Health secretary Andy Burnham said his plans aim to reduce the number of people who light up from a fifth (21%) of the population to one in 10 (10%) within a decade.

This would cut the country's number of smokers - estimated at eight million - to about four million if the plans succeed.

Mr Burnham is also considering whether to force tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain packets.

He said: "This strategy renews our commitment to virtually eradicate the health harms caused by smoking, and I firmly believe we can halve smoking by 2020.

"In 10 years' time, only one in 10 people will smoke."

The commitments include providing NHS support for every smoker who wants to give up, at times and in places that suit them.

In 2007, more than 80,000 deaths and 1.4 million hospital admissions were attributed to smoking and the Department of Health said the habit costs the NHS £2.7 billion a year.

An estimated 200,000 young people start smoking every year.

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Department of Health