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Use of NHS stop smoking services falls by 23% in a year

Action needed to reverse downward trend, say experts

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The number of people who actively used NHS stop smoking services last year in England fell by around a quarter, according to new statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

Leading smoking cessation and prevention organisations have called for action to reverse this trend for services which they say are life-saving and highly cost-effective.

The HSCIC’s Stop Smoking Services in England: April 2014 to March 2015 statistics showed that between those dates, 450,582 people set a quit date with the stop smoking services in England.

This represented a 23% drop on the previous year and the third consecutive year to show a fall in the number of people using the services.

At the four-week follow-up point, 229,688 people – just over 51% – reported that they had successfully stopped smoking.

In response to the data, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT) called for steps to be taken to reverse the downward trend.

They argued that smokers who got support from local stop smoking services were four times more likely to quit than going ‘cold turkey’.

The data came on the heels of the publication of a major review of the safety and efficacy of electronic (e) cigarettes by Public Health England (PHE). Around 66% of people who successfully quit via the stop smoking services do so using ‘unlicensed nicotine containing products’ (i.e. e-cigarettes).

Until now there has been little official guidance on the use of the electronic devices but the PHE statement recommended all stop smoking services make use of e-cigarettes in their efforts to help smokers quit their habit.

ASH and NCSCT said stop smoking services worked well and were cost-effective – over a 10-year period, stop smoking services are estimated to have helped over 20,000 people to achieve long-term abstinence.

ASH and NCSCT called for:

  • PHE to better promote local stop smoking services through their mass media campaigns
  • local authorities to commission high quality evidence-based services
  • local services to do more to reach out to groups with high smoking rates
  • local authorities and the NHS to better embrace smokers who want to quit using e-cigarettes

Dr Andy McEwen, executive director of NCSCT said: “Smoking remains the primary cause of premature death and preventable ill-health, causing misery to thousands of families and placing a huge burden on local health and social care services.

“The best way local authorities can address this is by investing in and supporting the local stop smoking services which are proven to be very cost effective.”

Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at ASH, said: “The stop smoking services provide a vital service to smokers seeking help to quit. However, there is a risk that the decline in use could increase health inequalities as smoking is one of the biggest causes of the difference in health outcomes between the rich and poor. Local authorities need to ensure that their stop smoking services are reaching those with greatest need.”

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