New Government data shows valuable Stop Smoking Services continue to decline

18 August 2017

New Government data shows valuable Stop Smoking Services continue to decline

NHS Digital has today published its latest statistics on Stop Smoking Services in England. The figures cover the period from April 2016 to March 2017 and they show that the number of people accessing these services has fallen for the fifth consecutive year in a row [1].

The data provide a valuable insight into how the progress made in fighting the tobacco epidemic is under threat from the erosion of funding to Stop Smoking Services. Services continue to be the most effective way a smoker can quit. Half (51%) of people using the service are successfully smokefree after 4 weeks. However, the number of people using services has fallen dramatically by more than 60% from 816,444 in 2011/12 to 307,507 in 2016/17.

ASH Director of Policy Hazel Cheeseman said:

“The reduction in people using stop smoking services is disappointing. Despite impressive ambitions in the Government’s recently published Tobacco Control Plan these highly successful services have been left under-funded. The Government must put its money where its mouth is and provide proper investment to local authorities to fund these services.”

Local authorities are facing a challenging funding environment with allocations for public health shrinking and Stop Smoking Services are among the worst hit by funding cuts [2]. However, reducing funding for smoking cessation is a false economy. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimates for that every pound invested in smoking cessation £2.37 in benefits are generated [3].

Smoking is a major cause of health inequalities with half the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor caused by higher smoking rates in poorer communities. Stop Smoking Services are an important tool in tackling this inequality with the largest group of people accessing services coming from ‘routine and manual’ occupations.

Hazel Cheeseman went on to say:

“Smokers from all backgrounds are more likely to successfully quit if they use a stop smoking service. If we allow these expert services to disappear from our communities we will face an uphill battle to reduce the inequalities caused by smoking.”

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.

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

[1] NHS Digital, Statistics on NHS Stop Smoking Services, 17th August 2017

[2] The Kings Fund, July 2017 

Central government cuts have forced councils to reduce planned spending on vital public health services such as sexual health clinics and reducing harm from smoking, alcohol and drugs by £85 million, according to new analysis by The King’s Fund.

The analysis, based on Department of Communities and Local Government data, shows that councils in England are planning to spend £3.4 billion on public health services in 2017/18. But on a like-for-like basis (to exclude the impact of changes to how budgets are calculated over different years) councils will spend only £2.52 billion on public health services in 2017/18 compared to £2.60 billion the previous year. Once inflation is factored in, we estimate that, on a like-for-like basis, planned public health spending is more than 5 per cent less in 2017/18 than it was in 2013/14.

While the figures show that councils are planning to spend more on some services – including on promoting physical activity and on some children’s services – most services are planned to be cut. This includes reducing spending on:

* sexual health services by £30 million compared to last year, a 5 per cent cut

* tackling drug misuse in adults by more than £22 million, a 5.5 per cent cut

* stop smoking services by almost £16 million, a 15 per cent cut.

[3] Pokhrel S. Owen L. Coyle K. et al. Costs of disinvesting from stop smoking services: an economic evaluation based on the NICE Tobacco Return on Investment model Lancet Public Health 2016; 388;S95.