Half a million smokers don’t have access to dedicated local stop smoking support, study finds

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Hundreds of thousands of smokers lack the support they need to kick the habit as a new study reveals that 12 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) in England don’t have a dedicated local stop smoking support service.

The study by online vape retailer Vapekit – Best and Worst Areas in England to Stop Smoking – reviewed last year’s data on the number of smokers within each CCG and cross-compared this with the number of dedicated, local stop smoking services available within each area. CCGs account for around 60 per cent of the NHS budget and allocate a wide range of services – including stop smoking support – to local populations.

As per the data compiled by the retailer, 12 CCG areas in England, comprising nearly half a million smokers (454,906), don’t contain any locally commissioned stop smoking support service. These include Ealing, Wolverhampton, Bolton, and North Cumbria.

There are a total of 129 dedicated local stop smoking support services in England, which equates to around one service for every 62,328 smokers, as CCGs report the number of current smokers aged 15 and above in the year to March 2021 as just over 8 million.

“With at least 60 per cent wishing to quit the habit, there is amazing potential to reduce the smoking rates in the UK. Any help to stop smoking will considerably enhance a smoker’s chances of success, so smoking cessation services have an important role to play moving forward,” the study states.

“However, smokers must be aware of the help available to take advantage of it. Stop smoking support should be well publicised, and the nature of that support clearly explained. Free help to stop smoking must be highly accessible. Smokers seeking a stop smoking service should not be required to do extensive research or jump through hoops to obtain the help they need.”

(Photo: Vapekit)

Nearly one in ten CCGs in England are based in an area that doesn’t provide locally commissioned stop smoking support. The Birmingham city region doesn’t contain any locally commissioned stop smoking support service.

The study also identified clear disparities between north and south of the country when it comes to the number of stop smoking support services, with eight out of the ten best areas for smoking cessation –the areas with the lowest smoker-to-support service ratio – in the south and midlands, while only two (West Lancashire and Southport and Formby) are in the north.

“When we compare some of the north’s major cities to London, the contrast becomes even clearer. For example, Liverpool and Leeds contain two dedicated local stop smoking support services between them, and these two support services cater to a total of 219,195 smokers. That’s the same number of services as in the area covered by the Central London (Westminster) CCG, which contains 30,659 smokers – 7x lower than the combined total for Liverpool and Leeds,” the report notes.

In another example, the areas covered by the West and Central London CCGs contain four dedicated local stop smoking support services for 68,371 smokers between them, whereas the area covered by NHS Manchester – which comprises more than 100,000 smokers – contains two.

Similarly, West Sussex contains six dedicated local stop smoking support services for 108,569 smokers, but Leeds has five fewer despite being home to 20,000 more smokers.

“There are disproportionate levels of local stop smoking support between some of the major cities within England – and these disparities need to be urgently addressed. Only by bridging this gap and drastically increasing quit rates can the government realistically expect to achieve its 2030 smoke-free target. Otherwise, this target is simply a pipe dream,” the report notes.