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England’s stop smoking services help more than 20,000 smokers to give up

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by Cancer Research UK | News

21 August 2013

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England’s NHS ‘stop smoking services’ have enabled at least 20,000 smokers to kick the habit long term in 2010/11 according to new research* in the British Medical Journal today (Wednesday), with the number of smokers helped more than tripling over their ten years of operating.

The number of smokers who used the service and set a quit date more than tripled from just over 227,000 in 2001/02 to nearly 788,000 in 2010/11. The total number of quitters who had not smoked for four weeks rose from just under 80,000 to almost 270,000.

The stop smoking services provide smokers with expert advice on how to stop together with discussion about the best options when it comes to stop smoking medicines. Smokers are followed up for at least four weeks following the quit date to help them through the most difficult period.

Until 2013 stop smoking services in England were provided through 151 primary care trusts. Since April 2013, local authorities hold the budget. Each local area can run its service as it wants but is encouraged to follow national guidance.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s head of tobacco policy, said: “With local authorities now in charge of this area of public health, these findings provide reassurance that stop smoking services are effective and provide value for money in reducing the deadly toll from tobacco. A close watch needs to be kept on the local provision of these services. Reduced support to smokers would be a very bad outcome of the NHS restructure as it would increase health inequalities, and could ultimately cost lives.”

Researchers analysed data from when the services began in earnest in 2001 to 2011, and examined how many people were successful at stopping smoking long term after using the service compared with what would have been expected if they had just received a prescription from their doctor for a stop smoking medicine. The researchers used known relapse rates after four weeks to estimate long term quit rates in service users.

The services were also successful in reaching disadvantaged smokers with 54 per cent of quitters in 2010/11 being eligible for free prescriptions.

While the overall picture is positive, the research found large variation in performance across local services with some doing more than twice as well as others.

Professor Robert West, Cancer Research UK Director of Tobacco Research at University College London led the research, said:  “England’s stop smoking services have led the world and saved lives more cost-effectively than just about any other area of the NHS – a real success story. However, there is clearly room for improvement and a need to bring the poorer performing services up to standard.”

Alison Cox added: “Tobacco is a lethal product that kills half of all long-term smokers, so helping smokers to quit is an incredibly important job. The quality of the services are world leading and this research shows just how successful they’ve been.”


For more information contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

* West R., May S., West M., Croghan E. & McEwen A. (2013). Performance of English stop smoking services in first 10 years: analysis of service monitoring data, BMJ, 347 (aug19 2) f4921-f4921. DOI: