England could be “smoke free” in just 12 years-time as smokers continue to switch to electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and alternative devices a new Philip Morris (PMI)-funded study claims.

The government’s ambition for England to achieve a ‘smoke-free generation’ – defined as an adult smoking prevalence rate of 5% or below – could be met as soon as 2029, 11 years earlier than its official target, if the current rapid decline in smoking rates is maintained, the study said.

Around 16% of adults smoked in 2016, down from 27% in the mid-1990s.

On an annual basis, smoking rates declined more than twice as fast between 2012 and 2016 than between 1993 and 2011.

E-cigs were fuelling the decline, with around 1.5 million former smokers having now converted fully in England.

Marlboro manufacturer Philip Morris welcomed the report, adding that it was committed to pursuing a smoke-free future.

The manufacturer, which has developed the heat not burn tobacco system IQOS, said smoke-free products were “a much better choice than cigarette smoking”.

“Indeed, our vision is that these products will one day replace cigarettes,” it said.

“Success in the cigarette business gives us the resources to pursue our ambitious vision. We have developed breakthrough products that are smoke-free and enjoyable.”