59 per cent of councils forced to cut funding for quit smoking services

A new report by ASH and Cancer Research UK has warned that Stop Smoking Services across England are facing ongoing budget cuts after six in ten local authorities (59 per cent) were forced to reduce their funding in the last year.

The services, which were previously delivered by the NHS but are now offered by local authorities, are under threat after cuts to the Public Health Grant from HM Treasury. It highlighted that smokers were up to three times more likely to stop smoking permanently using stop smoking services.

The report indicated that 48 per cent of council budgets for Stop Smoking Services have been cut by more than five per cent. In addition, 45 per cent of local authorities have cut their budgets for other tobacco control work such as tackling the illegal tobacco market and preventing the uptake of smoking by young people. Furthermore, one in five local authorities had replaced their specialist stop smoking service with a broader lifestyle advice service.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: “Smaller budgets aren’t just numbers on a balance-sheet – they can have devastating impacts on people’s lives. Continued public health cuts are forcing the majority of local authorities in England to cut funding for life-saving stop smoking services and enforcement of anti-smoking laws. Helping smokers to quit will also save a hard-pressed NHS money by reducing the burden of preventable diseases. Tobacco is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer, and we urge the Government to do all it can to reduce the wholly avoidable burden of smoking-related diseases.

“We have a vision for the future - a tobacco-free UK where, by 2035, fewer than one in 20 adults smoke. If we are to realise this ambition, then it’s vital to help smokers quit by ensuring that the most effective route – through specialist stop smoking support – receives continued investment.”

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “Our research shows that most local authorities remain committed to reducing smoking but key services are under threat from ongoing funding cuts. Meanwhile, the tobacco industry continues to reap huge profits from a product that kills around 100,000 people every year in the UK and is responsible for half the difference in life expectancy between the rich and the poor.

“If the Prime Minister is to succeed in her ambition to improve the life chances of the poorest in society the government must take action to ensure that local authorities have the tools and the funding they need to continue to provide specialist stop smoking services as part of a tobacco control strategy targeted at those with greatest need.”

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