Nicotine patches on the NHS urged

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NICOTINE patches, which can double the chances of a smoker kicking the habit, should be available on the NHS together with counselling, according to a report published today, writes Liz Hunt.

The patches are available only from pharmacies without prescription and cost from pounds 148 to pounds 183 for three months' treatment. Many smokers cannot afford what is probably the most effective aid to giving up.

Studies have shown that about 25 per cent of smokers can quit if they use patches and have regular counselling.

Dr Joe Collier, editor of the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, published by the Consumers' Association, said: 'Smoking is the UK's most common cause of preventable death and the NHS should do all it can to encourage the more effective ways of stopping the habit. People find it hard to give up, but nicotine patches double their chance of success.'