Just half of local authorities offer all smokers the best support to quit, due to government cuts to public health budgets, a report from Action on Smoking and Health and Cancer Research UK has found.
The report found that 44% of local authorities no longer have a specialist stop smoking service open to all smokers in their area, while 56% continue to provide a universal specialist service with a further 9% targeting their specialist support to groups of smokers such as pregnant women and people with a mental health condition.
Smoking rates for adults are still falling but they have plateaued for some groups, notably pregnant women, and the gap in smoking rates between rich and poor remains unchanged.
‘Local authorities are having to make the best of a butchered public health budget and many are managing to do just that,’ said Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy, Action on Smoking and Health.
‘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.’
Local councils who retained a specialist model had higher rates of quitting than those with less specialist support.
Over 100,000 smokers no longer have access to any local authority commissioned support to quit smoking across the 3% of local authorities that have cut all provision.
‘The Government needs to reverse its cuts to public health budgets,’ said Kruti Shrotri Cancer Prevention Policy Manager at Cancer Research UK.
‘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.’