Smokers less dependent but losing motivation to quit, study suggests
Smokers in England are showing fewer signs of dependence on cigarettes but are less inclined to try and quit, say researchers who looked at trends over a 10-year period.
Analysis of data from 41,610 smokers taking part in the Smoking ToolKit Study in England found that in 2017 smokers were consuming fewer cigarettes a day compared with in 2008.
Similarly, in 2017 they were less likely to smoke within an hour of waking and increasing numbers were not smoking every day, compared with 2008.
Researchers from University College London said the results run contrary to the view that as smoking rates have dropped, the remaining smokers are more dependent.
However, the results also showed fewer smokers are attempting quitting, said the research, published in journal Addiction.
Over the 10-year period the proportion of smokers who tried to stop smoking dropped from 37% to just under 30%.
There were also falling numbers using behavioural support, such as NHS stop smoking services - as opposed to using nicotine replacement patches - the researchers found.
Figures from NHS Digital released last year show the number of adults in England who smoke cigarettes has decreased from 7.7m in 2011, to 5.9m in 2018.
The researchers said the fall in the number of smokers trying to quit, alongside the decline in the use of stop smoking services, showed the need to ‘reinstate and improve easy to access effective services’.
Study lead Dr Claire Garnett said: ‘The decline in the proportion of smokers trying to quit or cut down is a worrying trend and may reflect budget cuts on tobacco control, including mass media expenditure and stop smoking services.
‘These are known to be effective and it is a false economy to be cutting back on these.’
Dr Alex Bobak, a GP with special interest in smoking cessation, said the figures showed just how short-sighted it had been to cut stop smoking services.
He said: ‘The figures show there are likely to be people who would be respondent to treatment and support but they’re not getting it.’