Councils in England get Ј2.5m to help smokers quit

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Department of Health is providing councils in England with a share of £2.5 million to enable them to step up their anti-smoking efforts.

In all, 25 local authority areas with the highest numbers of smokers will each receive £100,000 to be spent on encouraging smokers to quit and discouraging youngsters from taking up the habit.

With recent research in the journal Tobacco Control suggesting that smoking costs the NHS over £5 billion per year, it is hoped that the money will be a small price to pay to reduce the tobacco-related burden on the health service.

The following councils will receive the additional funding - Barking & Dagenham, Corby, Gateshead, Halton, Hartlepool, Hastings, Hertfordshire, Islington, Kingston-upon-Hull, Knowsley, Lincoln, Liverpool, Manchester, Medway, Middlesbrough, North East Lincolnshire, Nottingham, Plymouth, Salford, South Tyneside, Staffordshire, Stoke on Trent, Sunderland, Swindon and Thurroc.

The funding was announced by Gillian Merron, who took over the role of public health minister from Dawn Primarolo in the recent ministerial reshuffle.

"We have made good progress on reducing overall smoking rates," Ms Merron claimed.

"Now we're helping people in areas with the highest rates of smoking - particularly among young people and those from the poorest communities - so that we can help them to kick the habit for good."

Representatives from the 25 local authorities involved were due to meet yesterday (June 10th) in Warwick to discuss ways in which the money could best be spent.

Possible initiatives include local anti-smoking campaigns and support for trading standards to enforce tobacco retail regulations.

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's head of policy, said: "We welcome this announcement and it's good news for those areas of England with the highest smoking rates.

"Smokers are more likely to quit for good if they receive support and it is important to discourage young people from taking up smoking in the first place. Too many people are still addicted to tobacco, a product that kills half of all long-term users."