A report by Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health showing that cuts to the public health budget nationally have led to dramatic changes in services for smokers. Only 61% of local authorities continue to offer all local smokers access to evidence-based support in line with NICE guidance.
Local areas report year-on-year budget cuts to stop smoking services. There is now at least one local authority in England where there is a zero budget for addressing smoking.
The survey of local authorities across England also found that 1 in 9 areas report that GPs are no longer prescribing nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches or gum, to smokers. One in 10 GPs do not provide access to varenicline, an effective prescription-only medication that helps smokers to quit.
George Butterworth, Senior Policy Manager, Cancer Research UK, said:
“National decisions to cut public health funding are having an impact on the ground. A growing number of local areas no longer have treatment available for all smokers that meets the necessary standards. On top of this, smokers in many areas can no longer access stop smoking medications from GPs. We are deeply concerned that the erosion in support will hit disadvantaged smokers hardest. We urge government at every level to ensure smokers have the support they need to stop smoking.”
ASH, Cancer Research UK and other health organisations have argued for a number of years that, in the context of the enormous burden tobacco places on society, the tobacco industry should be forced to pay to address the harm it causes. It is estimated that tobacco companies in the UK make a collective annual profit of around a £1 billion.
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, ASH said:
“Thousands of people every year die from smoking with many more living with disabilities and disease. Shrinking public health budgets make it tougher to provide smokers with quit services while tobacco companies pocket a billion in profit every year in the UK. The Government should place a levy on the industry to fund the support smokers need.”