Record number quit smoking with NHS help

More people have quit smoking than ever before with the help of the NHS, figures showed today.

Some 373,954 successfully gave up in 2009/10, an 11% rise on the 337,054 who gave up in 2008/09.

The figure for last year is 49% of the 757,537 people who used the NHS quit service during the year.

The NHS Information Centre figures relate to people in England who had successfully stopped when they were followed up after four weeks.

A separate report on previously published data showed around one in 20 hospital admissions (462,900) for over-35s were linked to smoking in 2008/09.

The first report showed 65% of people giving up smoking used nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), and 47% of those using it on its own were successful.

Almost a quarter (23%) used the stop-smoking drug varenicline (Champix) last year, more than did so in 2008/09.

Six out of 10 of those managed to quit using the drug, which has been linked to reports of depressive side-effects.

Of those who did not use any kind of drug therapy, 49% were able to quit.

Total spending on NHS stop-smoking services was almost £84 million last year, up £10 million from 2008/09.

The cost per quitter was £224, an increase of 3% from the previous year.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of death in England.

"NHS doctors, nurses and health professionals in local stop-smoking services are dedicated to tackling smoking - it's because of their excellent work that more people than ever have successfully quit. Over 50 years, we have halved the proportion of adults who smoked.

"But some other countries have lower smoking prevalence than this, so we should go further and reduce the number who smoke."

Betty McBride, director of policy and communications at the British Heart Foundation, said figures showed the proportion of adult smokers had stayed static (at 21%).

"Whilst it's good news more people are successfully quitting, the fact that the proportion of smokers has not declined as well shows we can't rest on our laurels.

"The coalition Government must resist the heavy mob calls from the tobacco industry to roll back vital legislation on vending machines and tobacco product displays.

"It's so important that we keep working hard to stop future generations dying as a result of smoking."

Martin Dockrell, director of policy and research at Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: "This just shows what you can do when you have a proper plan to help smokers quit.

"Smoking costs the NHS at least £2.7 billion a year and when you include disability benefits, absenteeism and other costs it mounts up to a colossal £13.74 billion, so the small investment from the Government brings huge benefits to UK PLC."

Jo Webber, deputy director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said: "The NHS needs to find between £15 billion and £20 billion in savings over the next four years but it is important that in doing so the real benefits of these kinds of public health services are not forgotten.

"In the long run, encouraging smokers to quit saves the health service money as well as vastly improving the quality of life of the people involved."