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Cost of NHS stop smoking services soars

New data shows the cost of NHS stop smoking services soars following 70% fall in use by smokers

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New NHS data shows that in London, local council spending on stop smoking services per successful quitter has more than doubled since 2016. Fewer than 80,000 UK smokers use the service each year according to latest data, down 70% from 2011 when this number was over 250,000. Meanwhile smoking rates have continued to plummet as smokers chose vaping as the most effective aid to help them quit.

New NHS data on stop smoking services shows that the average “cost per quitter” – the public money spent on encouraging an individual to quit smoking by their local stop smoking service – is £451 per person [1]. In some local councils in London, this spend has increased by as much as twenty times compared to the same period in 2016, with one council recording just five successful quitters at a cost of £20,000 per person [2].

According to the new figures, which show stop smoking service uptake from April-December 2019, councils in London are spending an average of £1,477 per successful quitter [3]. This is up significantly from the £576, they were spending for the same period in 2016 [4].

Brent council recorded only five successful quitters via their service [5]. At a total cost of £101,773, this means the council spent £20,354.60 per quitter [6]. This has increased by over twenty times from the £812 it was spending per quitter for the same period in 2016 [7].

Similarly, in Redbridge council, they recorded 41 successful quitters via their stop smoking services, at a total cost of £197,975, meaning the council spent £4,828.65 per quitter [8]. This is up dramatically from the £375 per quitter it was spending in 2016 [9].

This compares starkly with the cost to councils to encourage vaping.

The latest data, which comes nearly a year after the government set a target to be “smoke-free” by 2030, also found that between April to December 2019, only 79,709 smokers used a local stop smoking service to help them quit [10], whereas during the same period in 2016 this number stood at 107,422 [11] smokers, and in 2011 it was as high as 264,795 [12] smokers.

Meanwhile, smoking rates in the UK have fallen dramatically, with ONS data [13] showing a 5.5 per cent fall since 2011, which is the equivalent of around 2.8million people, or 400,000 fewer smokers a year.

The decrease in smoking rates and use of local council stop smoking services coincides with a significant increase in quitters using e-cigarettes. An ever increasing number of smokers are buying e-cigarettes privately as many local stop smoking services do not offer them, despite endorsement by Public Health England, and instead typically only offer nicotine gums and patches which recent studies have shown are less effective [14].

Recent data shows that there are now 3.6 million vapers in the UK [15], with 1.7 million [16] of them having quit smoking entirely since switching to vaping. According to a study published in January 2019, vaping (with stop smoking service support) is twice as effective as traditional nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) gums and patches at helping people quit [17]. The average vaping device costs between £4.99- £9.99. [18]

Commenting on the data, Gareth Johnson MP, Vice Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vaping and Member of Parliament for Dartford said: “We need to be more positive about vaping. This latest NHS data further demonstrates the positive role of vaping on our nation’s health. Not only are e-cigarettes helping record numbers of smokers to quit because they’re more effective than traditional patches and gums, but they can also save the NHS, local councils and the taxpayer money if more widely used as part of local stop smoking services. This is an open goal and we should be doing everything we can to ensure that e-cigarettes are more accessible to the UK’s 7 million remaining smokers.”


  3. NHS data 2019 (see footnote 1), excel spreadsheet, table 4.10
  6. NHS data 2019 (see footnote 1), excel spreadsheet, table 4.10
  8. NHS data 2019 (see footnote 1), excel spreadsheet, table 4.10
  9. NHS data 2016 (see footnote 4), excel spreadsheet, table 4.10
  14. Queen Mary University, 30 January 2019 E-cigarettes more effective than nicotine replacement therapies, finds major UK clinical trial
  17. Queen Mary University, 30 January 2019 E-cigarettes more effective than nicotine replacement therapies, finds major UK clinical trial

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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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