Smokers to get free nicotine patches

Free nicotine patches are to be offered on the NHS as part of a major drive to help smokers quit their habit in the New Year.

Coupons giving smokers a week's free trial of the patches will be added to "Quit Kits" for the first time, the Department of Health announced.



The kits, which also contain items such as calming audio downloads and "health and wealth" wheels showing the benefits of giving up, will be available at participating pharmacies across the country.



The Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) patches work by gradually releasing nicotine into the bloodstream without the cancer-causing substances found in cigarettes.



Smokers can double their chances of giving up successfully by using them, and research shows that two-thirds of smokers want to stop.



Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "January is the most popular time of year to try and quit smoking.



"To give smokers some extra help, we've launched a new Quit Kit with a free one-week trial of NRT patches.



"Smoking costs the NHS billions every year and can cost a 20-a-day smoker around £2,000 a year, so giving smokers help to quit not only improves their health, but saves them and the NHS money."



From January 1, the kits will be at Co-operative and Whitworth pharmacies and later at Sainsbury's, Tesco and Manichem pharmacies, followed by Superdrug and a range of independent pharmacies in February and March.



People who cannot find a participating pharmacy in their area will be able to order online.



The patches included in the kit will be either NiQuitin Clear 21mg patches or Nicotinell TTS 30 21mg/24 hour patches, Step 1.



Professor Robert West, from the Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London, said: "Every year 80,000 people still die from smoking.



"Quitting smoking can be tough but by using stop smoking medication such as NRT patches and getting NHS support can significantly improve smokers' chances of quitting for good."



There are around eight million smokers in England, half of whom can expect to die of a smoking-related illness.



Latest figures show that there were 1,825,306 attempts by smokers to quit between January and March this year.



To find a participating pharmacy, people can visit http://www.smokefree.nhs.uk.



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