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More than 40 per cent of smokers tried to quit in 2007

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by Cancer Research UK | News

28 April 2008

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Forty three per cent of England’s smokers tried to quit in 2007, and many of them several times – according to Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco studies, Professor Robert West. His findings are presented at the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Wales* conference in Cardiff today (Monday).

More than 27,000 smokers and ex-smokers were asked about their attempts to stop smoking in a series of monthly surveys** between November 2006 and January 2008.

Eight per cent reported that they attempted to quit as a direct result of the smokefree legislation, which was introduced in England on 1 July 2007.

But the single biggest motivator for a quit attempt was New Year’s Eve, when more than one in ten made a quit attempt. Quits made at this time seemed to have more sticking power as well.

Professor West, co-director of Cancer Research UK’s Health Behaviour Research Centre at UCL (University College London), said: “We know that the majority of smokers want to give up so it’s very encouraging to see that half of the smokers we surveyed made a quit attempt in the past year.

“It can take many attempts to stop smoking for good, but the more times you try, the more likely you are to succeed in the end.”

Half of those people who tried to quit used methods shown to improve the chances of success such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). The most popular NRT products were purchased over the counter and came in the form of gum, patches or lozenges.

Professor West added: “I think the best chance of success comes from getting advice and assistance from the specialist NHS Stop Smoking Service. It provides friendly advice and assistance and is based on sound evidence of effectiveness.”

More than half of the smokers surveyed cut down on their smoking during the period and a quarter of these people used NRT. Research suggests that smokers are four times more likely to quit successfully with NHS support and stop smoking medicines such as patches or gum to manage cravings.

The average smoker spends about £3 per day on cigarettes. Over the course of the year, giving up would save a cigarette smoker over £1,000.

Elspeth Lee, Cancer Research UK’s head of tobacco control, said: “Smoking is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer, killing thousands of people prematurely every year.

“It’s good news that the smokefree legislation, as well as protecting people from secondhand smoke, encouraged some smokers to quit. But with about 10 million smokers in the UK – half of whom will die from a smoking related disease – we cannot be complacent. We need the Government’s continued commitment to reducing smoking rates and stopping future generations from starting to smoke.

“Further regulation to reduce the accessibility, affordability, attractiveness and appeal of all tobacco products is needed. In the Government’s consultation later this year, we will be urging them to put an end to the display of tobacco products at the point of sale, stop tobacco being sold from vending machines and continue to push at an EU level for plain product packaging. These measures will help people to quit for good and reduce the appeal of smoking to younger people.”


For further information, please contact Emma Gilgunn-Jones in the Cancer Research UK press office on 0207 061 8311 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.