Government funding cuts have led to Stop Smoking Services declining across England, a new report has revealed.
Just over half of local authorities in England are still offering a specialist service that provides the best support to all smokers looking to quit the habit.
The report by Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) revealed that 44% of councils no longer provide a full, specialist service to all smokers looking to quit.
The report links the continued decline in specialist services to Government cuts, which have seen funding for local Stop Smoking Services decline by £41.3 million since 2014/2015 – a drop of 30% in under 4 years.
Kruti Shrotri, a policy manager at Cancer Research UK, has urged the Government to reverse public health cuts to help support services.
Of the councils that don’t offer a full specialist service to all smokers, there are varying levels of support on offer.
Around 1 in 10 (9%) authorities have restricted specialist support to groups such as pregnant women and people with mental health conditions, where smoking rates have plateaued in recent years.
But 100,000 smokers in England no longer have access to any council-funded support to quit, with 3% of local authorities not offering stop smoking services at all.
Local councils that have kept specialist services have higher rates of quitting than those with no specialist Stop Smoking Services.
The report makes several recommendations to help tackle the rising issue of stop smoking service cuts, including the reversal of government cuts and ensuring services are evidence-based.
It also calls for authorities to coordinate their tobacco control efforts with other partners to improve visibility of media campaigns and invest in wider anti-smoking activities.
Reversal called for
Shrotri called for a reversal of the damaging cuts to public health budgets.
“Smokers in disadvantaged circumstances generally find quitting harder but are around three times more likely to quit successfully with the help of stop smoking services.
“We can’t deny those most in need of vital help that could save their life,” she said.
Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at ASH echoed this call, saying local authorities are having to make the best of a butchered public health budget.
She said: “Councils need to avoid a race to the bottom and ensure they maintain investment in stop smoking support and the other activities that will reduce smoking and tackle inequalities – this necessarily requires sustainable funding from central Government.”
Action on Smoking and Health & Cancer Research UK. (2019) A Changing Landscape: Stop smoking services and tobacco control in England.