Objectives: To determine whether England's smoke-free legislation, introduced on 1 July 2007, influenced intentions and attempts to stop smoking. Design and setting: National household surveys conducted in England between January 2007 and December 2008. The sample was weighted to match census data on demographics and included 10 560 adults aged 16 or over who reported having smoked within the past year. Results: A greater percentage of smokers reported making a quit attempt in July and August 2007 (8.6%, n=82) compared with July and August 2008 (5.7%, n=48) (Fisher's exact=0.022); there was no significant difference in the number of quit attempts made at other times in 2007 compared with 2008. In the 5 months following the introduction of the legislation 19% (n=75) of smokers making a quit attempt reported that they had done so in response to the legislation. There were no significant differences in these quit attempts with regard to gender, social grade or cigarette consumption; there was however a significant linear trend with increasing age (χ2=7.755, df=1, p<0.005). The prevalence of respondents planning to quit before the ban came into force decreased over time, while those who planned to quit when the ban came into force increased as the ban drew closer. Conclusion: England's smoke-free legislation was associated with a significant temporary increase in the percentage of smokers attempting to stop, equivalent to over 300 000 additional smokers trying to quit. As a prompt to quitting the ban appears to have been equally effective across all social grades.