NICE issues smoking cessation guidance

In collaboration with the Press Association

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued new guidelines on helping smokers who want to quit. Smoking costs the NHS around £1.5 billion a year and causes a range of diseases, including a number of forms of cancer.

NICE has now published its first ever comprehensive guidance on treatment for smokers, which is aimed at primary care trusts (PCTs), local authorities and community and voluntary sectors.

The recommendations suggest that realistic targets should be set to treat at least five per cent of smokers in an area every year and to aim for a success rate of at least 35 per cent at four weeks, with a particular focus on minority ethnic and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.

Patients should be advised to take nicotine replacement therapy or the smoking cessation drugs varenicline or buproprion alongside counselling and group therapy, although the two drugs should not be offered to under-18s or pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Youngsters over the age of 12 can, however, be given nicotine replacement therapy if they are dependent on cigarettes and should be offered information, advice and support on how to stop smoking, as should pregnant women.

Professor Peter Littlejohns, NICE clinical and public health director, noted that smoking is still the main cause of preventable and premature death in England.

"We are asking all PCTs, SHAs and commissioners to make it a priority to help people to quit smoking," he said.

"Most smokers want to quit and in this guidance we aim to ensure that the right services are put in place to help them to stop."

Sir Alexander Macara, chairman of the Smoking Cessation Public Health Development Group, said that the decline in smoking prevalence has slowed down in the last ten years.

"Although NHS Stop Smoking Services have helped large numbers of people to quit smoking, smoking cessation rates are still lower among vulnerable groups, particularly pregnant women, people in routine and manual groups and those aged 20 or under," he revealed.

"We have specifically targeted these groups as they often need additional support to help them give up smoking."