The number of people smoking in England has fallen to below 17% - the lowest ever rate on record, according to new figures commissioned by Public Health England (PHE).

The Nielsen data also reveals that the number of cigarettes sold in England and Wales has dropped by 20% in the last two years.

The biggest decreases in smoking over the last four years can be seen in the South West (18.7% to 15.5%), the North East (22% to 18.7%) and Yorkshire and Humber (21.9% to 18.6%).

Devices such as electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) are clearly helping more smokers to quit successfully, the report added.

“This increase in successful stop smoking attempts reflects the high number of people using quitting aids,” it said.

“In 2015, just over a million people (1,027,000) used an e-cig in a quit attempt while around 700,000 used a licensed nicotine replacement product such as patches or gum. In addition, over 350,000 people used their local stop smoking service in 2015 to 2016.”

The findings come as PHE gears up for Stoptober – the annual mass quitting challenge which kicks off on 1 October.