"It is quite possible that there will be no smokers left in Britain or many other developed countries in about 30 to 50 years," Citigroup analysts predicted Friday, in a report that sent tobacco company stocks tumbling. Smoking sales peaked in Britain in 1974, and in 1981 in the U.S., and they "appear to be falling in a series of straight lines" since then, Citigroup says. About 20 percent of Americans and Britons still smoke. Could that figure really drop to zero within a few decades? (Watch a report about Citigroup's analysis)

The trends are pretty clear: More than half of Britain smoked in the 1960s, so today's 21 percent is a pretty sharp drop, says Rachel Cooper in The Daily Telegraph. The understanding that cigarettes are deadly started the decline, and a series of recent smoking bans and other regulations are speeding it up. When they consider their "long-term" prospects, cigarette makers have to be quaking.
"Smoking could 'disappear' by 2050, says Citigroup"

Smoking is more entrenched than Citigroup thinks: "Zero puffers in 30 to 50 years' time?" asks Cynthia R. Fagen in the New York Post. "Don't hold your breath." Smoking rates have dropped impressively in the past 50 years, but "the decline among American smokers is at a standstill now," and the millions who still smoke do so in spite of the bans, higher taxes, and other obstacles.
"Smoking population dying out"

Smoking's future is hazy: "The spiraling cost of cigarettes" is the biggest turn-off for smokers, says The Times of India. And while health experts welcomed Citigroup's analysis, they "warned that a more gradual cut in smoking was likely." In the end, as the analysts note, nobody can see the future. And the long-term trends could change quickly if there's a sudden loosening of cigarette laws — or a total ban on smoking.
"Cigarettes will be stubbed out by 2050"