One million anti-smoking kits will be distributed free of charge at pharmacies and GP surgeries as part of a major New Year health drive.

They will include free nicotine replacement patches for the first time and will replace current NHS "quick kits" including details of helplines and motivational material.

The patches normally cost about £10 for a week's supply and are regarded as effective. The Patient UK website says that 17 per cent of smokers who use nicotine replacement therapy manage to quit.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, is changing the Government's public health strategy from what he calls the "top down, nanny state" campaigns under Labour to embrace the "nudge" theory of encouraging people to change their behaviour.

Critics of the anti-smoking campaign say it has a declining success rate despite rising budgets under Labour. They claim the number of people trying to kick the habit has halved over the past three years and that fewer than one in five smokers is trying to give up.