Council reviews stopping smoking service after quitters fall

A public health boss has underlined the importance of investing taxpayers’ money into funding stopping smoking services after being told it appeared “a bit pointless” spending funds trying to change the habits of a hardcore of tobacco addicts.

Richard Webb, North Yorkshire Council’s director of health and adult services, said while there was a legitimate debate over how funding and investment for stopping smoking was targeted, a proportion of those who continued to smoke were people the authority was asked to be particularly aware of.

He was speaking at a meeting of the council’s leaders after an officer’s report showed how significantly fewer people were recorded as having successfully quit smoking for at least four weeks last year than since at least 2019.

The report stated smokers setting a quit date had fallen largely due “dealing with the harder-to-quit cohort of smokers as we reduce our prevalence down year on year and also following the withdrawal of Varenicline, one of the most popular stop smoking medications.

The council’s Living Well Smokefree scheme would be increasing staff capacity, using government Smokefree generation funding, the report stated, while also using e-cigarette starter kits as part of a swap-to-stop scheme.

A National Institute for Health and Care Research study last year stated there were about 70,000 smokers in North Yorkshire, with higher rates in areas of greater deprivation, and above national average rates of smoking during pregnancy.

It found the council’s post-Covid hybrid approach to providing stopping smoking support, with both face-to-face and phone coaching, had the best quit outcomes and highlighted how providing face-to-face support cost about £700 due to room hire and staff travel costs.

The council’s scrutiny of health committee chair, Councillor Andrew Lee told the executive meeting the council appeared to have “tackled the medium to low-hanging fruit” in recent years.

He questioned whether the resources the authority was pumping into its stop smoking programme “could be used in a different way, deployed elsewhere where there is more need for assistance in other public health areas”.

The question follows the council transforming its public health programmes, such as support for overweight children, in recent years due to decreading government funding.

Coun Lee said: “There seems to be a persistent rump which we can’t get below. If we can’t get below a certain level it would seem a bit pointless to continue banging on. There will always be some people who are smokers.

“We have a service that will help them to stop, but I think perhaps it should be looked at.”

Mr Webb replied there had been a significant shift in attitudes towards smoking and the issue centred as much as on vaping as smoking following “a change in behaviour”.

He said the authority was focusing efforts on “people who are more difficult to reach and less likely to give up smoking with the easier interventions”, such as people with other addictions and those with mental health issues.

 Mr Webb added: “We are not actually over-spending on targeting those groups of population. Smoking is still the number one killer from a public health point of view, the number one cause of cancer. It is an area where we still have to have a focus. We are reviewing how we should focus that money.”

He said a review of the stopping smoking service had been paused for the general election, but whatever the outcome of the vote on July 4, he suspected there would be a renewed focus on anti-smoking.


1 Comment

  1. Folk who can afford to smoke can afford to contribute to the cost of their treatment, after which they’ll be quids in.

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