Britain is considering extending its public smoking ban to include building entrances as one of a series of measures to cut the number of smokers by half in a decade, the government said.
The government says it wants to cut the number of smokers to 10% of the population, from 21%, with a particular focus on young people.
"We've come so far and now we'll go even further -- to push forward and save even more lives," Health Secretary Andy Burnham said in a statement.
The number of people lighting up has fallen by a quarter in the past decade as a result of various policies including a ban on advertising, putting grisly pictures on packets and raising the age of sale for tobacco to 18.
In 2007, the government introduced a ban on smoking in virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces, and last year 337 000 people stopped puffing on cigarettes.
Smokers cost billions
Despite falling smoking rates, the number of deaths attributed to smoking is 80 000 a year, costing the National Health Service some 2.7 billion pounds ($4.39 billion) a year.
The government said seven out of 10 smokers want to give up, and supportive measures will include a review of smoke-free laws with the possibility of extending the ban to include areas such as entrances to buildings.
It also will look at protecting children from second-hand smoke by promoting smoke-free homes and cars.
Tailor-made anti-smoking strategies will be available on the NHS, and the government will crackdown on cheap illicit cigarettes.
Policymakers also are considering introducing plain packaging. "One day, in the not too distant future, we'll look back and find it hard to remember why anyone ever smoked in the first place," Burnham said. - (Reuters Health, February 2010)