Less than 10% of councils in England are still commissioning smoking cessation through primary care, according to a survey by Action on Smoking and Health and Cancer Research UK.
The survey of 102 individuals, who provided data for 107 local authorities, found that smokers can only access stop smoking services via their GP or pharmacist in 9% of local authorities.
The report also showed that:
- 44% of local authorities no longer offer a specialist stop smoking service to all smokers in their area
- 3% have decommissioned services altogether
- 18% no longer have a specific budget as they have moved to an integrated lifestyle model of service delivery
- Between 2014/15 and 2017/18 local authority spending on tobacco control and stop smoking services fell by £41.3m (30%)
Cancer Research UK cancer prevention policy manager Kruti Shrotri said: ‘The Government needs to reverse its cuts to public health budgets. Too many people still die from smoking, and we know that most smokers want to quit.
‘Smokers in disadvantaged circumstances generally find quitting harder but are around three times more likely to quit successfully with the help of stop smoking services. We can’t deny those most in need of vital help that could save their life.’
Action on Smoking and Health director of policy Hazel Cheeseman said: ‘Local authorities are having to make the best of a butchered public health budget and many are managing to do just that.
‘But councils need to avoid a race to the bottom and ensure they maintain investment in stop smoking support and the other activities that will reduce smoking and tackle inequalities – this necessarily requires sustainable funding from central Government.’
Analysis by the Labour Party published last year found that central funding for smoking cessation services was cut by over a third between 2013/14 and 2016/17.
NHS Digital data also shows smokers accessing NHS stop smoking services are falling nationally, with the number of people who set a quit date falling by 11% to 274,000 in 2017/18.
A version of this story was first published on our sister publication Pulse.