Smokers shun the NHS for help quitting smoking

quitting smokingThe number of people using the NHS for help in successfully quitting smoking has declined for the second consecutive year, according to a new report.

Statistics to emerge from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) have been branded “disappointing” by anti-smoking campaigners, showing that more than 586,000 people set a quit date using the NHS Stop Smoking Services through 2013/14, in comparison to over 724,000 people in 2012/13 – representing a 19% drop.

It marks the first time a decline has occurred over successive years since 2001, when NHS Stop Smoking Services began being provided to England’s local authorities.

Anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) believe the drop is down to a “combination of the impact of changes in the health service, fewer mass marketing campaigns that specifically encourage people to visit services and the impact of electronic cigarettes”.

Around half (300,540) of those who had set a target quit date then managed to give up smoking, with the over 60s being able to boast having the largest number of successful quitters at 58%.

Unsurprisingly, people aged 18 or under were the demographic with the lowest percentage of people who had managed to quit smoking (39%).

Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at ASH said: “We know an ever increasing number of people are using electronic cigarettes to help them quit. While services can’t prescribe people electronic cigarettes, they can give people who want to use them extra support which can make all the difference to a successful quit.”

Martin Dockrell, tobacco control programme lead at Public Health England, which monitors NHS Stop Smoking Services, commented how “local stop smoking services are effective as ever at helping smokers to quit, even if overall numbers using the services have declined. Smokers are four times more likely to succeed using these services.”

He further added: “Many factors could explain why overall numbers are down including the emerging popularity of e-cigarettes as a quitting aid. However, so far no e-cigarettes have been licensed as medicines, and their contents and quality varies greatly. There is no reason why someone wanting to quit using an e-cigarette shouldn’t also speak to a stop smoking service to receive additional support and advice to stand the best chance of quitting for good.”

Smoking is still the single biggest factor behind illness and early death in Britain, not only negatively impacting the person smoking, but those in the close vicinity around them through second-hand smoking. Quite simply, quitting smoking is the best thing you can do. It is never too late to stop, making a big difference to your health and even increase life expectancy.

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