NHS 'Quit Kits' to contain nicotine patch vouchers
Smokers are to be offered free nicotine patches to help them give up in the new year, the government has revealed.
NHS 'Quit Kits' - which are available at participating pharmacies - will now include coupons for a week's free trial of nicotine patches, which are a form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
The patches are designed to be placed on the skin, where they gradually release nicotine into the bloodstream to help combat cravings.
They can double a smoker's chances of successfully giving up and, with figures suggesting that two-thirds of smokers want to quit, the Department of Health hopes the free patches will help to boost quit rates.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley told the Press Association: "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."
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 using stop smoking medication such as NRT patches and getting NHS support can significantly improve smokers' chances of quitting for good."
The Quit Kits are available online and at Co-operative and Whitworth pharmacies, while Sainsbury's, Tesco, Manichem, Superdrug and a number of independent pharmacies are due to join the scheme in the near future.
Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "We welcome any move that helps smokers to quit. Smoking is the single biggest preventable cause of death and will kill half of all long-term smokers. Using patches or other quitting aids can double the chance of quitting successfully. Smokers can also increase the likelihood of quitting for good by four times if they use professional support - such as the NHS Stop Smoking Services.
"It's vital that all smokers don't give up trying to give up smoking. It's especially important for parents to quit as we know that if a child's parents smoke they are three times more likely to smoke themselves. It's time we put tobacco out of sight and out of mind before another generation becomes addicted to tobacco. We urge this government to remove the shop displays of tobacco and protect young people from tobacco marketing."