Anti-smoking education needs a society-wide effort, a senior NHS figure said after the health secretary pledged to cut the number of smokers from a fifth of the population to a 10th in the next 10 years.
Andy Burnham's target would mean around four million of England's estimated eight million smokers quitting, and the government also hopes to cut the estimated 200,000 youngsters who start smoking every year.
NHS Confederation Chair Bryan Stoten said smoking is the most crucial challenge facing the NHS, adding: "Smoking kills half of all lifelong smokers, wastes £2.5bn of NHS income and accounts for over half of all health inequality.
"What is needed is nothing less than a society-wide effort to educate, persuade and prompt people to either give up smoking, or better still, not to take the habit up in the first place."
"The NHS can play its part in tackling the symptoms of smoking-related disease as well as helping to educate the population about the dangers but it needs to be recognised that the rest of society also needs to play its part."
He hailed politicians' engagement with tobacco products' packaging, promotion and use.