Struggling to quit? Inhale less smokers told

Cigarette smoke
Image caption Smoking rates are hovering just above 20%

Smokers who struggle to quit should inhale less or stop during set points of the day, such as at work, an official NHS body is suggesting

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) believes for hardcore smokers the approach will act as a stepping stone to quitting.

Traditionally the NHS has focused on advising smokers to give up completely.

But this proposal, which covers England, is an acknowledgement that for some a softer approach is needed.

Smoking rates dropped dramatically from the 1950s - when the link with lung cancer was proved beyond all doubt - to the turn of the century.

But over the past decade they have remained stubbornly stuck above the 20% mark.


Research shows that two-thirds of smokers want to quit and so this guidance is an attempt to reach out to those who are struggling.

It still makes clear that giving up completely is the best option and it even acknowledges it is questionable how big the health effect of smoking less will be.

Prof Mike Kelly, a public health expert at NICE, said: "If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is the best way to improve health and quitting in one step is most likely to be successful.

"However, some people - particularly those who are highly dependent on smoking - may not feel able or don't want to do this.

"Harm reduction approaches provide an alternative choice... for some people this can kick-start a gradual change in behaviour that eventually leads them to quit smoking."

Among the tactics being advocated is a temporary abstention by stopping smoking at home or at work or smoking less of a cigarette.

The guidance, which will now be consulted on, also said nicotine replacement therapy could be used to help with this approach.

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