The number of smokers in England has dropped to the lowest level since records began. Currently 16.9% of the population smoke, according to figures released by Public Health England.

In England there are double the number of ex-smokers (14.6 million people), compared to current smokers (7.2 million).

And last year a fifth of the 2.5 million smokers who attempted to quit succeeded.

The figures have been released as PHE launched its annual Stoptober campaign – and this year it is focusing its efforts online.

A number of celebrities have joined the effort, including former England cricketer Phil Tufnell.

“I have smoked pretty steadily since I was a teenager, even through my cricket career,” he said.

“I have tried to give up before and know how tough it is, but I am going to try and quit again from 1 October.

“Even if you have tried quitting before like me and failed, just give it another go and keep trying. The more you try to quit the more likely you are to get there.

“Stoptober is here to help, so let’s try and get through to 28 days without a fag by taking it one day at a time.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing at PHE, said: “While it is amazing that there are over twice as many ex-smokers as current smokers in England, there are still over seven million people regularly lighting

“Alongside unhealthy diet, smoking is the biggest cause of preventable early death in England, accounting for over 78,000 deaths a year.

“Quitters will soon see they have reduced blood pressure, easier breathing and better circulation.

“Stopping smoking is the best thing a smoker can do to improve their health.”