More smokers quit using NHS help

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Image caption,
All quitters are followed up after four weeks

NHS smoking services helped a record number of people quit last year, figures show.

The NHS Information Centre said 373,964 had successfully given up, an 11% rise from the 337,054 who gave up in in 2008/09.

The figures are for people in England who successfully stopped when they were followed up after four-weeks.

A separate report from the centre shows around one in 20 hospital admissions for over-35s were linked to smoking.

It brought together data from a wide range of previously published material and said smoking accounted for 462,900 admissions.

Drug therapies

Record quit rates were seen three years ago after the introduction of the smoking ban in public places.

The ban - introduced in England and Wales in 2007 - was seen as one of the key reasons why more people tried to stop smoking that year. A ban was introduced in Scotland in 2006.

About 65% of people trying to give up smoking used nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), and 47% of them were successful.

Almost a quarter used the controversial stop-smoking drug varenicline (Champix) last year, more than did so in 2008/09. Sixty per cent of them managed to quit using the drug.

Of those who did not use any kind of drug therapy, 49% were able to give up cigarettes.

Total spending on NHS stop smoking services was just under £83.9m last year, up £10m from 2008/09. The cost per quitter was £224, an increase of 3% from the previous year.

There was wide variation in quit rates across England.

The highest percentage of successful quitters was reported by Redbridge Primary Care Trust, with 70%. The lowest rates were seen in Lambeth PCT and Blackburn with Darwen PCT, where only 31% of smokers who tried were able to stop.

'Resist the heavy mob'

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: "NHS Stop Smoking Services are helping more people than ever before to quit, and... they are using a number of means of offering support.

"With smoking attributed to so many hospital admissions among those who are 35 and over, it is important that people get the support they need to quit in order to remain as healthy as possible."

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley welcomed the findings, but said more could be done.

"Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of death in England.

"We are now reviewing how best to tackle this issue in the context of the new priority and focus on public health by the government and this department."

Martin Dockrell, director of policy and research at the charity Action on Smoking and Health, said: "Of course this is the opposite of the 'nanny state'. These are people who really want to quit but they know they stand a much better chance of making their choice stick if they get professional help from the NHS."

But Simon Clark, director of the smokers' lobby group Forest, said: "Total expenditure on NHS Stop Smoking Services during 2009/10 was more than £83 million, £10 million more than the previous year. People choose to smoke so I'm not sure that the taxpayer should pick up the bill when they choose to quit."

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