More than a quarter of a million people pledged to stub out their last cigarette during the "Stoptober" anti-smoking campaign, the Government said today.

The month-long NHS quit drive, which runs until the end of October, aims to encourage thousands of Britain's eight million smokers to kick the habit.

Research suggests that those who successfully give up for four weeks are five times more likely to stay smoke-free.

Health minister Anna Soubry said the £5.7 million campaign had "exceeded expectations".

The figures were announced as a new study suggested women smokers can earn themselves 10 years of extra life by quitting the habit before middle age.

The study of 1.3 million women found that smoking tripled the chances of dying over nine years compared with non-smokers. Most of the increased death rate resulted from smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease or stroke.

Smokers who kicked the habit around age 30 avoided 97% of their excess risk of premature death, according to the Million Women Study.

Ms Soubry said: "Stoptober has been a great success - it has exceeded our expectations. But half of all smokers will die because of their habit. We know that most smokers want to give up, which is why we must keep encouraging them to make that step.

"I congratulate everyone who gave up for Stoptober - it's a fantastic achievement. They are five times more likely to give up for good after 28 days and I hope they will.

"For those who didn't manage to stop for Stoptober, I would urge them to keep at it. People can start their own 28 day quit challenge at any time."

More than 268,000 people registered to take part in Stoptober - the UK's first ever mass stop smoking event, the Department of Health (DoH) said.

Almost 200,000 support packs were ordered which included a Stoptober guide, an addiction test, patches and gum. There were 205,885 registrations for the Stoptober online app and 72,347 text service registrations.

More than 1.2 million visits to the Smokefree website were recorded, along with 150,000 Stoptober tweets and more than 50,000 fans joined the Facebook page in the campaign period.

Smoking remains the biggest killer in England with half of long-term smokers dying from smoking related diseases.

More than eight million people still smoke in England each year and 300,000 children under 16 try their first cigarette, the DoH said.

Exposure to second-hand smoke results in 300,000 GP visits and 9,500 hospital admissions for children each year.