Doctors have said a new tobacco strategy, unveiled today by the Government, will fail unless local authorities stop slashing funding for smoking cessation services.
The Government’s strategy includes all health professionals taking every opportunity to encourage patients to quit smoking. It also aims for all NHS employees to quit smoking, making NHS estates ‘smoke free’.
The report points out that smokers are putting pressures on NHS, including ‘seeing their GP 35% more than non-smokers’.
Amid the general public the plan aims to, by the end of 2022:
- reduce the number of 15-year-olds who regularly smoke from 8% to 3% or less;
- reduce smoking among adults in England from 15.5% to 12% or less;
- reduce the inequality gap in smoking prevalence, between those in routine and manual occupations and the general population;
- reduce the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy from 10.5% to 6% or less.
With regard to smoking cessation services, the plan says the Department of Health ‘wants to see… local areas developing their own tobacco control strategies, based on NICE evidence-based guidance’.
But board of science chair Professor Parveen Kumar warned that unless more money is put into these services people will continue to die from smoking-related illness.
She said: ’If we’re to stop the 79,000 annual deaths in England attributed to smoking, smoking cessation services and tobacco control measures must be adequately funded yet local authorities are reducing stop-smoking budgets, merging services into unwieldy departments or cutting services altogether.
‘Cuts to these highly cost-effective services will only increase health inequalities and demand on tomorrow’s GP surgeries and hospital wards.’
The number of smokers who successfully quit through the NHS smoking cessation services tumbled in 2015/16 for the fourth consecutive year, according to official statistics.