As part of a collaborative study, the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and University College London (UCL) also found that 440,000 smokers had tried to stop over the same period but were unable to do so.
Of those who did manage to stop, 400,000 were aged between 16 and 29 and 240,000 were aged over 50.
The findings came on the eve of a new anti-smoking campaign, prompted by studies that showed smokers were more likely to suffer severe effects from Covid-19 compared to non-smokers.
Dr Ruth Sharrock, a respiratory consultant who supports the campaign, has encouraged more people to transform their lives by stopping smoking.
She said: “Every day of my working life I see the terrible health problems caused by smoking. But I have also been inspired by those already suffering from smoking related diseases, who have still managed quit and get health benefits from this.
“My message to smokers today is, please, do not wait. Whether you are healthy now or already unwell because of smoking, today is the day to stop. It can transform your life.”
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said that almost five million people in the UK still smoked, adding that the new campaign would attempt to make smokers ”wake up and decide today is the day to stop smoking”.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies