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Press Release

ASH CEO Deborah Arnott to retire in the Autumn as the Government poised to create first smokefree generation

12 Feb 2024

For immediate release

Today [Monday 12th February] Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) announces that after 21 successful years, Deborah Arnott will be retiring from ASH on 30th September and the Board of Trustees is starting the recruitment process for her successor. This will allow time for her successor to be recruited before she leaves, to enable a smooth transition. For more information on the new vacancy please visit this link.

The last 21 years have seen Deborah Arnott develop and lead ASH and the Smokefree Action Coalition which ASH coordinates, to substantial campaign successes including legislation prohibiting smoking in public places, putting tobacco out of sight in shops, and plain standardised tobacco packs. The ratcheting up of regulation has been accompanied by substantial declines in smoking prevalence of more than half among adults [1] and more than 80% among children aged 11-15 [2].

Before Deborah retires, parliament is expected to have passed revolutionary laws to create a smokefree generation; a fitting end to two decades of campaigning success.

Prof Nick Hopkinson, Chair of Trustees at ASH, said,

“I want to thank Deborah for her passion and determination over the last twenty one years. While everyone at ASH will be sad to see Deborah go, she leaves ASH in a robust position, with sound finances and a talented staff team. The next chief executive will inherit a highly-motivated group of colleagues and supporters. Now is an exciting time for tobacco control, with government commitments to a smokefree future and raising the age of sale to create a smokefree generation overwhelmingly supported by the public and parliament.”

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said,

“I am proud to be leaving ASH at a good time and in safe hands, well on the way to delivery of our mission to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco. Our values, the strength of our team, the quality of ASH advocacy and networking, and our reputation and influence all stand us in good stead for the future. Whoever takes over from me is inheriting the leadership of an outstanding organisation."

Bob Blackman MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health which ASH provides the secretariat for, said,

“What has been achieved in tobacco legislation over the last twenty-one years is in no small measure due to the brilliant work led by Deborah at ASH. Working in collaboration with politicians from across the political spectrum she has built and sustained a truly cross party consensus on ending the harms from smoking. As a result, I have no doubt that MPs from every party will vote to create a smokefree generation later this year. We have much to thank her for.”

For more than twenty years Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation have been ASH’s major funders.

Cancer Research UK's chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, said,

"Deborah Arnott’s highly effective leadership of ASH over the past two decades has helped pave the way for the world-leading progress made in reducing the burden of tobacco – the biggest preventable cause of cancer and death in the UK.

"Deborah’s impact extends worldwide. She has been a key figure in the global tobacco control community, helping to secure stricter tobacco control measures around the world, which prevent cancer cases and save lives.

"We are proud to support ASH and look forward to continuing to work together. Particularly on the age of sale legislation as it passes through parliament. If implemented, this could help stop the next generation ever becoming addicted to tobacco."

British Heart Foundation Chief Executive Dr Charmaine Griffiths, said,

“For two decades, Deborah has been the inspirational and tireless leader of an incredibly effective public health organisation. The dramatic reduction in tobacco smoking over that period, and the many lives saved, would not have happened without the landmark policies relentlessly driven by Deborah and her team at Action on Smoking and Health. For this, the BHF and wider cardiovascular community owe her their most heartfelt gratitude.

"As well as being a passionate campaigner and consistently effective influencer, Deborah has been an extremely competent CEO, and so leaves the ASH organisation primed and ready to drive the next steps towards a smokefree country, a vision she has never let out of her sight."


Notes to the Editor

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

For interviews and more information contact


[1] Data on adult smoking is collated in this ASH fact sheet:

[2] Government measures of teenage smoking are here: