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.


*Professor Robert West is speaking at the ASH Wales ‘A Call to Action!’ conference at Cardiff International Arena on Monday 28 April. For more information about the conference, visit

**The Smoking Toolkit Study is a monthly series of national household surveys with smokers and recent ex-smokers being followed up for six months. Data collection began in October 2006. The study is currently funded by Cancer Research UK, J Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. The fieldwork is undertaken by the British Market Research Bureau (BRMB).

Smoking and cancer

Smoking is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer in the world and accounts for one in four UK cancer deaths.

Smoking causes nine in ten cases of lung cancer in the UK. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer, after breast cancer. There are over 38,300 new cases each year and more than 33,000 people die from the disease.

Men are more likely to be affected by lung cancer, but the number of women with the disease has been increasing. Lung cancer rates in men have decreased by more than 40 per cent in the last thirty years, reflecting the decrease in smoking rates which began after World War II. Female lung cancer rates have increased by more than 50 per cent over the last thirty years due to the high smoking rates among women after World War II.

Smoking also increases the risk of over a dozen other cancers including cancers of the mouth, larynx (voice box), oesophagus (food pipe), liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney, bladder, cervix, as well as some types of leukaemia.

Half of all smokers eventually die from lung cancer or another smoking-related illness. And a quarter of smokers die in middle age – between 35 and 69.

The good news is that most of these deaths are preventable by giving up smoking in time. The best way to reduce the risk of cancer is to give up smoking completely.

Getting help to quit smoking

Local NHS Stop Smoking Services offer ongoing free face-to-face support and advice close to people’s homes. There are over 150 throughout the country, offering a range of services including one-to-one or group support sessions with trained stop smoking advisors.

The NHS Smokefree campaign has produced a free DVD which provides a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at the full range of free stop smoking support available from the NHS.

To find your local NHS Stop Smoking Service or order a free ‘Get Support’ DVD, visit or call the free NHS Smoking Helpline on 0800 917 6699. Lines are open seven days a week from 7am to 11pm.

Cancer Research UK’s ‘Sponsor me to quit’ initiative invites people to raise money for the charity by getting friends and family to support their attempt to quit. Visit


Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. In the government’s most recent Research Assessment Exercise, 59 UCL departments achieved top ratings of 5* and 5, indicating research quality of international excellence.

UCL is in the top ten world universities in the 2007 THES-QS World University Rankings, and the fourth-ranked UK university in the 2007 league table of the top 500 world universities produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. UCL alumni include Marie Stopes, Jonathan Dimbleby, Lord Woolf, Alexander Graham Bell, and members of the band Coldplay.

Cancer Research UK

  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to beat cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
  • Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
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  • For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit