The figures were released as the health body launched its annual Stoptober campaign to encourage the nation's remaining smokers to quit for the month of October. If people give up the habit for 28 days they are five times more likely to quit for good, PHE said.
In England there are now twice as many ex-smokers (14.6 million people), than current smokers (7.2 million), PHE added. Last year, out of the 2.5 million smokers who made a quit attempt, 500,000 people (20 per cent) were successful.
That's right, over 1/3 of smokers tried to quit last year. So much for the idea that smokers smoke out of freedom of choice, 80% of those trying to give up last year failed. Survey show over 90% of all smokers want to quit.
"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."
Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "On top of this human cost, smoking has been estimated to cost the economy over £10 billion a year. We therefore support public health campaigns like Stoptober that motivate and support people to quit."