Action needed to reverse the downward trend in those seeking support to quit smoking
Responding to the data published this morning, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT) are calling for steps to be taken to reverse the current downward trend in people seeking support from specialist Stop Smoking Services.
Smokers getting support from local stop smoking services are four times more likely to quit than going ‘cold turkey’. However, the latest statistics, released today, show that fewer people are accessing this support.
Between April 2014 and March 2015 450,582 people set a quit date with the Stop Smoking Services in England. This is down 23% on the previous year and the third consecutive year to show a fall in the number of people using the services. At the 4-week follow-up 229,688 people – just over 51% reported that they had successfully stopped smoking. 
This new data comes on the same day that Public Health England has released a major review of the safety and efficacy of electronic cigarettes together with new advice on their use.  Until now there has been little official guidance on the use of the electronic devices but the PHE statement provides Stop Smoking Services with a mandate to reach out to smokers who want to quit with the help of electronic cigarettes. This advice is timely given that among those who quit via the services and were using unlicensed nicotine containing products’ (ie e-cigarettes), 66% quit successfully. This does not necessarily mean that e-cigarettes are more effective as aids to quitting but smokers are finding them helpful.
Stop Smoking Services remain effective and incredibly cost-effective. A review found that over ten years of operation, the English Stop Smoking Services increased their reach threefold. In 2010/11 it is estimated that they helped more than 20,000 people to achieve long term abstinence. 
Services offer the best way of helping people to quit and to stay smokefree. They are also successful in attracting smokers from lower socio-economic groups where smoking prevalence is highest. 
ASH and NCSCT are calling for:
- Public Health England to better promote local stop smoking services through their mass media campaigns
- Local authorities to commission high quality evidence based services
- Local services to do more to reach out to groups with high smoking rates
- Local authorities and the NHS to better embrace smokers who want to quit using electronic cigarettes.
Dr Andy McEwen, Executive Director of the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT) said:
“Smoking remains the primary cause of premature death and preventable ill-health, causing misery to thousands of families and placing a huge burden on local health and social care services. The best way local authorities can address this is by investing in and supporting the local Stop Smoking Services which are proven to be very cost effective.”
Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy at health charity ASH said:
“The Stop Smoking Services provide a vital service to smokers seeking help to quit. However, there is a risk that the decline in use could increase health inequalities as smoking is one of the biggest causes of the difference in health outcomes between the rich and poor. Local authorities need to ensure that their stop smoking services are reaching those with greatest need.”
Notes and Links:
 E-cigarettes: a new foundation for evidence-based policy and practice. Public Health England, August 2015.
McNeill A et al. E-cigarettes: an evidence update. A report commissioned by Public Health England, 2015.
 West, R. et al. Performance of English stop smoking services in first 10 years: analysis of service monitoring data. BMJ 2013;347:f4921 doi: 10.1136/bmj.f4921