Cuts in public health grant leads to decline in support for smokers


15 January 2018

A report by Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health [1] showing that cuts to the public health budget nationally have led to dramatic changes in services for smokers. Only 61% of local authorities continue to offer all local smokers access to evidence-based support in line with NICE guidance.

Local areas report year-on-year budget cuts to stop smoking services. There is now at least one local authority in England where there is a zero budget for addressing smoking.

The survey of local authorities across England also found that 1 in 9 areas report that GPs are no longer prescribing nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches or gum, to smokers. One in 10 GPs do not provide access to varenicline, an effective prescription-only medication that helps smokers to quit.

George Butterworth, Senior Policy Manager, Cancer Research UK, said:

“National decisions to cut public health funding are having an impact on the ground. A growing number of local areas no longer have treatment available for all smokers that meets the necessary standards. On top of this, smokers in many areas can no longer access stop smoking medications from GPs. We are deeply concerned that the erosion in support will hit disadvantaged smokers hardest. We urge government at every level to ensure smokers have the support they need to stop smoking.”

ASH, Cancer Research UK and other health organisations have argued for a number of years that, in the context of the enormous burden tobacco places on society, the tobacco industry should be forced to pay to address the harm it causes [2]. It is estimated that tobacco companies in the UK make a collective annual profit of around a £1 billion [3].

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, ASH said:

“Thousands of people every year die from smoking with many more living with disabilities and disease. Shrinking public health budgets make it tougher to provide smokers with quit services while tobacco companies pocket a billion in profit every year in the UK. The Government should place a levy on the industry to fund the support smokers need.”  


Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see:
ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.

Cancer Research UK receives no funding from the UK government for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on vital donations from the public.

ASH staff are available for interview and have an ISDN line. For more information   contact ASH on 020 7404 0242 or out of hours Deborah Arnott on 07976 935 987 or Hazel Cheeseman on 07754 358 593.

For Cancer Research UK media enquiries contact the press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.



[1] ‘Feeling the heat: The decline of Stop Smoking Services in England’ research undertaken by ASH commissioned by Cancer Research UK. Findings from a survey of Local Authorities with public health budgets. Survey work undertaken July – September 2017.

[2] Smoking Still Kills, 2015 – this report produced by ASH and funded by Cancer Research UK and endorsed by 129 organisations, set out the case for making the ‘polluter pay’ and placing a levy on the tobacco industry to fund work to reduce the number of people who smoke

[3] Branston JR, Gilmore AB. The extreme profitability of the UK tobacco market and the rationale for a new tobacco levy. University of Bath. 2015