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Quit Smoking Campaign Axed

England’s annual New Year stop smoking campaign axed following swinging health budget cuts

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Public Health England (PHE) has run a new year new resolution quit smoking campaign every January, but not in 2020. The government instituted a 24% cut to the public health budget and follows the slashing of funding for stop smoking services last year. The measure has been called out as “foolhardy” and adds to concerns for the nation’s smokers.

Last year, research from University College London showed that vaping helps between 50,000 and 70,000 quit smoking in England every year [link]. George Butterworth, senior policy manager at Cancer Research UK, commented on the findings: “We don’t yet know their long-term impact. We strongly discourage non-smokers from using them. But research shows that vaping is less harmful than smoking tobacco and can help people to stop smoking, so it’s good that over 50,000 people managed to give up in 2017. For the best chance of quitting, get support from a stop smoking service, who can help you find the right tools for you.”

Information about vaping has to get to smokers for this to work – this won’t come from Stop Smoking services.

A report into service funding last year 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
  • Local authorities are responding to significant Government reductions in public health budgets by cutting back on support for smokers

ASH UK said the report “found support to smokers and funding for other measures to reduce youth smoking and promote quit attempts has fallen by £41.3 million since 2014/15, a decline of 30%. The biggest cuts in local services followed national government’s 2015 decision to take £200 million out of public health budget in year with local authorities left with little choice but to rapidly cut services.”

The January campaign has been axed following the government making a 24% cut to the public health marketing budget, reducing the anti-smoking budget from £5million to  £3.8million and reducing PHE’s overall marketing budget by a fifth in 2019, down from £35million to £28million.

Rachael Hodges, British Lung Foundation’s senior policy officer, said: “Slashing budgets for these campaigns is a foolhardy decision which not only lets down smokers who are looking to quit but will also result in further pressure on the NHS due to smoking-related illnesses. Although smoking rates are declining, we must not be complacent. Mass media campaigns are vital in encouraging smokers to quit and stay smoke free.”

PHE’s “Stoptober” campaigns have achieved fewer year-on-year successful quit attempts due to the organisation having to cut back on television and radio advertising.

Bob Blackman, former chairman of the APPG on Smoking and Health, previously ventured a possible solution: “Tobacco companies continue to make millions in profit in this country as public health budgets are under pressure. The Government should compel tobacco companies to pay up so we can invest in what is needed to help more smokers quit.”

If the successes the government has experienced with declining smoking rates is to continue, it is essential that vaping is supported across 2020 and beyond.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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