Stop smoking services popular among poorer people

In collaboration with the Press Association

NHS stop smoking services are benefiting people from poorer areas more than from affluent communities, a new study published in the journal Tobacco Control has revealed. Figures show that some 1.5 million smokers used NHS stop smoking services between April 2003 and March 2006, involving counselling from trained advisers as well as access to cessation treatments such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Researchers from the University of Bath's Tobacco Control Research Group and the University of Edinburgh noticed that the services tend to be used more by smokers from poorer areas. Services in disadvantaged areas treated 16.7 per cent of local smokers, while just 13.4 per cent of smokers in more affluent areas were treated. The study also found that a higher proportion of smokers in more disadvantaged areas were successful in quitting (8.8 per cent) than in more affluent areas (7.8 per cent). The researchers suggest that NHS stop smoking services are therefore helping to reduce tobacco-related health inequalities. Dr Linda Bauld, a researcher at the University of Bath, revealed that smoking is "the single biggest cause of inequalities in health", accounting for more than half of the excess risk of premature death between the highest and lowest socioeconomic groups in the UK. "Our study shows that the NHS stop smoking services are helping to reduce the health gap between rich and poor, which is good news for the overall health of the nation," she commented. However, Dr Bauld claimed: "The contribution of stop smoking services to achieving ambitious government targets to reduce inequalities in health is likely to be modest. "It is important that wider tobacco control measures, in particular successful implementation of the recent ban on smoking in public places and rises in tobacco taxes, are pursued if more significant reductions in smoking-related inequalities are to be achieved."