Fewer people are quitting smoking, say NHS stop smoking services

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: (Published 22 August 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4598
  1. Susan Mayor
  1. London

The numbers of people setting a date to quit smoking or who successfully quit have fallen for the fourth consecutive year, figures from NHS “stop smoking services” in England have shown.1

A total of 382 500 people set a smoking quit date through these NHS services from April 2015 to March 2016. This is 15% lower than the figures reported the previous year by the services, which provide a range of resources in the local community to help people stop smoking, and 37% lower than 10 years ago.

The number of people reporting that they had successfully stopped smoking through the NHS services also fell, down 15% from the year before to 195 170. But the success rate among people attempting to quit smoking remained similar at 51% and increased in older people.

“The reduction in the use of NHS Stop Smoking Services may be partly due to the increased use of e-cigarettes, which have become widely available,” said the government’s report on the new figures. A national survey asking people about their attempts to stop smoking generally, and not just through NHS stop smoking services, found that the proportion of people using e-cigarettes to help them quit had increased from 8% in 2012 to 37% in 2015.

Looking at the stop smoking services in detail, the report found that those provided in general practice accounted for the most people setting a quit date (142 533) and for the highest number of successful quitters (70 003), with a quit rate of 49%. Fewer people attended smoking services provided by hospitals, but their quit rate was higher at 58%. Smoking cessation services provided in psychiatric hospitals had the lowest self reported quit rate, at 37%.

Providing smoking cessation support by telephone achieved a successful quit rate of 61%, compared with just over 53% with group support and 50% with one to one support.

The highest quit rate, 67%, was achieved by people who used a licensed nicotine containing product—such as nicotine patches, gum, sublingual tablets, or nasal spray licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency—followed by an unlicensed nicotine product, such as e-cigarettes.

People using the drug varenicline reported the second highest success rate (61%), although more than half (54%) of people using no licensed medication or unlicensed nicotine products successfully quit.

The report warned that the data should not be used to compare the effectiveness of different interventions because some approaches are more appropriate for heavy smokers, who achieve a lower quit rate than lighter smokers.


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