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Press Release

Stop smoking services open to smokers thanks to rapid response of local councils

29 May 2020

29 May 2020

Stop smoking services open to smokers thanks to rapid response of local councils

A new survey [1] by public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has found that within a month of lockdown, most councils had services in place to help smokers quit, and around a quarter reported an increase in smokers seeking help to quit.

The results come as PHE issues guidance to smokers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic recommending that smokers quit [2].

The PHE guidance states that “on the available evidence, we advise:

    • if you smoke, you generally have an increased risk of contracting respiratory infection and of more severe symptoms once infected. COVID-19 symptoms may, therefore, be more severe if you smoke
    • stopping smoking will bring immediate benefits to your health, including if you have an existing smoking-related disease. This is particularly important for both you and for our NHS at a time of intense pressure on the health service.”

Today the British Lung Foundation has also issued new data, showing that half of smokers with a lung condition in England want to Quit for Covid [3].

Further information for smokers about quitting is available from [4]

Lockdown posed a real challenge for these normally face-to-face services as they moved online and over the phone. But local authorities have risen to the challenge, with 96% reporting that smokers still have access to support from a trained advisor and 88% that smokers can still access medications or e-cigarettes via the services. In addition, 24% report that they have seen an increase in smokers seeking support.

The results are from a national snapshot survey undertaken by ASH in late April and responses were received from 74% of local authorities with public health responsibilities.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire Council and Chair of the LGA Community Wellbeing Board said:

“These have been extraordinary times and local authorities have shown both their resilience and ingenuity. Smoking is a leading cause of poor respiratory health and we are in the midst of a respiratory pandemic. I am enormously proud of the teams around the country who have radically altered their services and got support to the smokers who so urgently need it.”

Providing these services to smokers is a high priority for public health teams as they play an important role in tackling inequalities; smoking is highly concentrated in the most disadvantaged populations.

Stop smoking services have been a key plank in the Government’s strategy to drive down smoking for the last two decades, but in recent years national cuts to the public health budgets of local councils have placed real pressure on the services [5].

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH said:

“Our quit services have been the envy of the world and they have continued to be in recent years despite chronic underfunding of public health by national government. They are here today to support the smokers who need them, but if their future is to be secured, then sustainable funding must be found. Big Tobacco is a polluter of the public health, which has for over a hundred years fuelled the smoking epidemic which still kills nearly 100,000 people a year in the UK. It’s time the UK government forced Big Tobacco to pay for our quit services and all the other measures needed to finally bring this epidemic to an end.[6]”


Notes to the editor:

Media Contact

Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy, Action on Smoking and Health


M: 077 5435 8593

About Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)

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

[1] The survey was issued to the 152 local councils with public health responsibilities and was responded to by 74%. The full report can be found here.

[2] Guidance from PHE to smokers: here.

[3] For full details of the BLF release contact press team on 020 7786 4949 or email

[4] ASH alongside other regional and local partners have been co-ordinating #QuitForCovid campaign to engage and support smokers in quitting. See launch PR here:

[5] Findings from ASH and Cancer Research UK survey on the impact of national government cuts to public health on local service delivery:

[6] For more information on the policy’s that can secure Government’s ambition of smokefree by 2030 see: