Sales of anti-smoking products have risen by 160 per cent in the past five years and the market will grow to an estimated £94.7m by the end of this year.

Sales of anti-smoking products have risen by 160 per cent in the past five years and the market will grow to an estimated £94.7m by the end of this year.

Nicotine patches and chewing gum dominate the booming industry, accounting for 85 per cent of sales, but there has been a 25 per cent increase in sales of anti-smoking tablets, according to research by the market analysts Mintel.

Researchers reported that increased popularity of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) was due to the growth in new product ranges made possible by government and industry initiatives. The researchers questioned 1,027 people and found that about one third of adults smoked, with men, at 36 per cent, more likely to be smokers than women (29 per cent).

Almost 40 per cent of smokers questioned said they were trying to cut down for health reasons, with a similar number wishing that they had never started the habit in the first place.

The number of smokers planning to quit has also increased, with a fifth wanting to give up in 1999 compared with 27 per cent in 2002. Women are also keener to quit than male smokers, with 35 per cent planning to give up compared with 28 per cent of men.

But despite the increase in NRT sales, three-quarters of smokers and ex-smokers think willpower is the most important factor in trying to quit cigarettes.

Some 12 per cent of those questioned said they would consider trying nicotine gum or patches to help them quit, but 11 per cent said they had tried such products but failed to give up smoking.

Mintel's consumer goods consultant, Elvira Doghem-Rashid, said NRT was most effective when used with support from manufacturers and health authorities.

"NRT is now viewed as an effective means of alleviating withdrawal symptoms, thereby addressing the biochemical problems," she said.

Recent initiatives to reduce smoking have included restrictions on the availability and promotion of cigarettes and the raising of taxes to make cigarettes more expensive to consumers. Assistance for smokers who want to give up cigarettes has been made available in the form of the NHS Smoking Helpline and NHS Smoking Centres in every health authority.

According to Mintel, a better understanding of the nature of nicotine addiction has led to an improved understanding of NRT, with many doctors and some pharmacies offering smoking cessation clinics and advice on the use of NRT as standard therapy.

In March 2001 the Government announced the provision of NRT on prescription, involving doctors in the supply of such products. From May 2001 the sale of anti-smoking products was extended from pharmacies to supermarkets and convenience stores.

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