Many smokers in Northumberland are failing to quit the habit

Less than half the people using the NHS Stop Smoking Service in Northumberland managed to quit, according to the latest figures.

People still smoking despite using support services to help them quit. Picture by PA Archive/PA Images
People still smoking despite using support services to help them quit. Picture by PA Archive/PA Images

In the 12 months from April 2017 to March this year, 2,164 people in Northumberland signed up with the NHS Stop Smoking Service and set themselves a date to quit.

At follow up meetings four weeks later 993 people said they had given up, according to data from NHS England, which works out at 46 per cent, which is below the average rate for England of 51 per cent during the period.

The success rate is based on self-reported results of people who said that they hadn’t had a puff for two weeks since their quit date. But 40 per cent of those who set a date proved they’d kicked the habit by having a test that checks carbon monoxide in their bloodstream.

The Stop Smoking Service has been provided by local authorities rather than the NHS since 2013. It offers support with one-to-one counselling or group sessions.

Medicines that help with nicotine cravings can also be prescribed, while some people also use over the counter products. The data shows that three quitters succeeded with a cold turkey approach with no chemical substitutes for cigarettes.

The total cost of the service in Northumberland was £647,545, which is equivalent to £652 for each person that quit.

Latest figures from Public Health England show that 13 per cent of the adult population of Northumberland are smokers.

The number of people using the service across the country has been falling and it went down compared to the previous 12 month period in Northumberland.

The campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says that the popularity of e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting explains some of the decline in users of the service across England but not all of it. They say tighter council budgets, less publicity nationally about services and an apparent reduction in GPs prompting people to take up the service may also be to blame.

Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy at ASH, said: “We want to see investment going back into funding these services through local authorities. We need the NHS to step up in its referral of people to stop smoking services and we’d like to see greater investment in mass media campaigns to make smokers aware of these services.”

The data shows that in Northumberland, men had more success than women with 48% quitting compared to 44 per cent of women.

The services also record if women were pregnant when they signed up and the figures show that 28% of them managed to stop smoking.

Older people had a higher quit rate than younger ones. In Northumberland the most successful age group was 60 and over with a success rate of 57 per cent. For 18 to 34-year-olds it was 36%.

Some local authorities no longer provide NHS Stop Smoking Services and some did not supply complete data. Of the 141 that did, the highest quit rate was 80 per cent in Croydon and the lowest was 24 per cent in Cumbria.

Martin Dockrell, tobacco control lead at PHE said: “If you’re not a smoker, don’t start and don’t vape. If you’re a smoker, quit now and consider using an e-cigarette as an aid. Using an e-cigarette along with support from your local stop smoking service gives you the best chance of quitting successfully.”