One hundred million years of life will be lost by current UK smokers, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) claims.

At a one-day conference to commemorate 50 years since the college's groundbreaking report on smoking, it gave a stark warning about the impact of cigarettes on the nation's health.

There are around 10 million smokers in the UK, or 20 percent of the population, and the RCP estimates that half of these will die an average of 10 years early due to smoking.

It calculates that at least 360,000 deaths from smoking have been avoided by the drop in smokers since the report was issued in 1962.

Changes in public policy, such as the smoking ban and a ban on advertising, have helped fuel the decline, but the RCP argues that "we could do so much more".

It calls for price increases on cigarettes, the removal of smoking imagery from films and television, and the extension of the smoking ban to parks and other public areas.

"Smoking is still the biggest avoidable killer in the UK. Smokers smoke because of an addiction to nicotine that is usually established before adulthood," said Professor John Britton, chair of the RCP tobacco advisory group.

"There is so much more that can and should be done to prevent the death, disease and human misery that smoking causes. Our government needs to act at the highest level to tackle smoking head on and eradicate it from our society and particularly our children's futures."

Sir Richard Thompson, RCP president, said: "I hope that in another 50 years smoking, like slavery, will have passed into history."