Posted 21st March 2019 by Dave Cross
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) have published the 5th annual report, “A Changing Landscape”, on local tobacco control. It reveals that cuts to government funding have led to Stop Smoking Services declining across England. Almost half of the local authorities have lost any specialist quit advice provision.

With just over 50% of authorities still providing a specialist service, ASH and CRUK have called upon the Government to address funding so that public health and local authorities can coordinate tobacco control efforts properly and sustainably with adequate financial resources.

The report found:

  • 44% of local authorities no longer have a specialist stop smoking service open to all smokers in their area (56% continue to provide a universal specialist service with a further 9% targeting their specialist support to groups of smokers such as pregnant women and people with a mental health condition)
  • Local councils who retained a specialist model had higher rates of quitting than those with less specialist support
  • Over 100,000 smokers no longer have access to any local authority commissioned support to quit smoking across 3% of local authorities that have cut all provision

CRUK says: “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.”

The organisation’s policy manager Kruti Shrotri said the government has to act and reverse these public health cuts and support services.

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Of those authorities still offering a stop smoking provision, one in ten have restricted this to certain groups such as pregnant women and people with mental health conditions.

The cuts mean that 100,000 smokers in England no longer have access to any council-funded support to quit.

ASH and CRUK point to the fact that those councils that have kept specialist services enjoy higher rates of quitting than those with no specialist provision. This has ramifications for spending on treating tobacco-related diseases.

On vaping: “All surveyed stop smoking services supported smokers who choose to use e-cigarettes. However, attitudes and practice vary. Most services only provide advice about the use of e-cigarettes but some include them in their offer to smokers, for example through free starter kits.”

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A quote in the report from one authority is disconcerting as it demonstrates that not all have fully embraced the recommendations from Public Health England: “The service does not recommend the use of e-cigarettes however if a client is already using one or wants to use one they will be told about the evidence and not discouraged.”

Report recommendations:

  • The government’s commitment to more NHS action on prevention and health inequalities should extend to supporting local government
  • Rather than cutting the public health grant further, the government should be reversing the decline in the public health grant and seeking a sustainable long-term funding solution
  • Local authorities should explore every possible means of sustaining evidence-based specialist stop smoking support at the heart of their offer to smokers
  • Local authorities should invest in wider tobacco control activity in addition to quit smoking support
  • Local authorities should work together to tackle regional tobacco control problems, deliver media campaigns across a larger footprint, and develop innovative approaches to the delivery of specialist stop smoking services
  • Local authorities should consider how best to integrate e-cigarettes as a quitting tool into their offer to smokers, especially in reaching high prevalence disadvantaged groups



“A Changing Landscape” by ASH and CRUK -

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 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker
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