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Quit rates for smoking at their highest for a decade

Experts attribute e-cigarettes as a major factor

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 22 September 2017

Success rates for quitting smoking are at their highest level for a decade, according to new figures.

Experts suggest the use of e-cigarettes may be an important factor.

Nearly one in five (19.8%) quit attempts were successful in the first half of 2017, up from an average of 15.7% over the last decade. The figures come from researcher carried out by University College London, with support from Cancer Research UK. 

The researchers collected data from over 18,000 participants using cross-sectional household surveys from January 2007 to June 2017. The findings reveal that quit smoking success rates in England in the first six months of 2017 were higher than the average rate during the preceding decade. 

“This improvement was exclusively in those with lower socioeconomic status,” note the authors. “The current study indicates an important improvement in this regard. The improvement has resulted in parity between the groups in quit success rates for the first time in over 10 years and possibly ever.”

Many factors may have contributed to this quit-rate high, according to the researchers, including: “an environment that is more conducive to quitting and the availability of a wide range of quitting methods, including e-cigarettes.” 

Last year, out of the 2.5 million smokers who made a quit attempt, 500,000 people were successful; the highest recorded success rate.

Public Health England states that the increase in successful stop smoking attempts reflects the high number of people using quitting aids. In 2015, just over a million people (1,027,000) used an e-cigarette in a quit attempt while around 700,000 used a licensed nicotine replacement product such as patches or gum. In addition, over 350,000 people used their local stop smoking service in 2015 to 2016.

Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England said the evidence that vaping is much less harmful than smoking is clear, with it having only a fraction of the risk. “If you’ve struggled with quitting before, an e-cigarette may be the best option for you” he said.

Alongside this, the number of cigarettes sold in England and Wales has dropped by 20% in the last two years.

According to Public Health England, the smoking rate in England has fallen to below 17% for the first time.

George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager, welcomed the figures, and agreed that some of the success can be attributed to e-cigarettes. “Research has shown that e-cigarettes are the most popular way to quit,” he said. “The evidence so far tells us they’re much safer than smoking, and are helping many people to beat their addiction.” 

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing for PHE said: “While it is amazing that there are over twice as many ex-smokers as current smokers in England there are still over 7 million people regularly lighting up. Alongside unhealthy diet, smoking is the biggest cause of preventable early death in England, accounting for over 78,000 deaths a year. Quitters will soon see they have reduced blood pressure, easier breathing and better circulation. Stopping smoking is the best thing a smoker can do to improve their health.”

The latest figures have been launched alongside the government’s stop smoking campaign: Stoptober.

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