Local authorities have had to cut their stop smoking services due to a lack of funding over the past few years, according to a new study by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
The study, based on surveys from the past 3 years, found that services for smoking cessation have been cut by 16% in 2014, to 39% in 2015, and by a worrying 59% in 2016.
Many organisations have criticised the cuts, with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) labelling them ‘completely counter productive’
Sean O’Sullivan, Head of Health and Social Policy at RCM, said: ‘It’s most disappointing to see how much funding has been cut from local authority budgets for smoking cessation, particularly given the Governments current policy on this.’
At a time where more and more people are successfully quitting smoking, with last year being the most successful year ever, the cuts risk reversing what has been an extremely positive trend.
ASH Chief Executive, Deborah Arnott, said: ‘Our research shows that most local authorities remain committed to reducing smoking, but key services are under threat from ongoing funding cuts.’
One in 20 local authorities no longer offer stop smoking services other than that provided by GPs and local pharmacists and almost half have seen their budgets for stop smoking services slashed by more than 5%
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s Director of cancer prevention, has emphasised the effect of budget cuts on local services: ‘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.’
With Stoptober for this year drawing to an end, and record numbers of people quitting, local authorities are being urged to maintain smoking cessation or otherwise risk witnessing a fall in the number of people quitting.