Effective behavioural support in 2021 and beyond

Posted 9th April 2021 by Dave Cross
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) held an online meeting to discuss smoking support services over the last year. Hazel Cheeseman, ASH’s Director of Policy opened the proceedings and spoke about how this has been a year where smoking cessation services had to become very inventive in how they delivered support to quitters. Covid lockdowns also meant that smokers couldn’t seek support from trained staff in their local vape stores.

The ASH(1) webinar couldn’t hope to answer all of the questions due to the sheer volume of topics to be discussed, but began with Dr Jamie Hartmann Boyce, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford, covering the findings from the Cochrane Review of behavioural interventions for smoking cessation(2).

Jamie spoke about the latest Cochrane findings on behavioural support for smoking cessation, work funded by the research wing of the NHS. The work is conducted to help people make healthcare decisions.

Cochrane has recently completed updating sixteen of its reviews and then compiled them into an overview. Findings for behavioural aspects of quitting found little confidence in things like hypnotherapy or recommending exercise, but high confidence in counselling and offering financial incentives.

Going forward, because of ongoing constraints in finances and due to Covid, Jamie believes there will be a continued emphasis in remote support from smoking cessation services and, while she didn’t mention it directly, this means that vape shops will be performing a vital role when they open up again from 12th April.

ASH’s policy officer Robbie Titmarsh then gave an overview of the ASH report looking at stop smoking services before Dr Sophia Papadakis and Louise Ross, ex-head of Leicester’s quit service and now deputy chair of the New Nicotine Alliance, spoke on behalf of the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (3) addressing how to maintain the quality of behavioural support.


They detailed how the NCSCT always believes in using evidenced-based practices and noted that requests to access services or referrals to services had profoundly dropped over the last year.

Vaping was finally covered directly when Sarah Tinker and John Gear, from Essex County Council, gave their presentation. Responding to how they deliver their e-cig programme, they replied: “Essex works with selected vape stores that are first vetted by Trading Standards, then trained by us to deliver behavioural support alongside any service user purchasing a device/fluid. Treatment term is 8 weeks during which the service user reduces their dependence to Nicotine through a weaning off process.

“If a service user should wish to continue vaping after the 8-week term, they would do so at their own cost. This is made clear at the start of treatment, and we haven’t had feedback of any animosity to this from service users.”


  1. Action on Smoking and Health - https://ash.org.uk/home/
  2. Cochrane Reviews - https://www.cochranelibrary.com
  3. National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training - https://www.ncsct.co.uk/

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