Kent and Medway worst for local Stop Smoking support



Kent and Medway has the same number of dedicated local stop smoking support services as Westminster despite containing eight-and-a-half times more smokers, according to new research.

These findings have been uncovered by online retailer Vapekit through a study into the level of smoking cessation support within England. In conducting the study, Vapekit looked at smoker data from every Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in England from 2020/21, encompassing all smokers aged over 15.

This data, from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, was then benchmarked against the number of dedicated local stop smoking support services within each area, and each area was ranked according to its support-service-to-smoker ratio.

Vapekit’s research found that the area covered by NHS Kent and Medway CCG contains two dedicated local stop smoking services for 260,859 smokers. This works out at one service per 130,430 smokers – one of the worst support-service-to-smoker ratios in England.

By stark contrast, the area covered by NHS West Sussex CCG has six local smoking cessation services, which is three times as many as Kent and Medway, although West Sussex contains 152,290 fewer smokers.

Furthermore, the area covered by NHS Central London (Westminster) CCG has two local stop smoking support services, which is the same number as Kent and Medway, but this CCG reported 30,659 smokers. That’s a staggering 230,200 fewer smokers than in Kent and Medway, yet it contains the same number of local stop smoking services.

When Kent and Medway is compared with the 134 other areas of England that contain a CCG, it’s the 16th-worst area in the country in terms of the number of smokers versus the number of local stop smoking support services.

A dedicated local stop smoking service is an allocated service staffed by expert advisers who can provide regular, tailored one-to-one support over a long period.

“Tackling public health issues such as smoking is a priority for the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities and a key part of the government’s levelling-up agenda. 

“This is why we launched the independent review of our bold ambition to make England smoke-free by 2030. 

“This review provides independent, evidence-based advice on potential interventions that will inform our approach to tackling the stark health disparities associated with tobacco use.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson

Budget needs a boost, not a cut

The government recently cut its stop smoking budget from £5m in 2019 to the current level of £3.8m. However, in the government report released last week, former Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan, recommended that an extra £70 million needs to be invested into stop smoking services every year.

Smoke-free by 2030

The government has set a target of England being ‘smoke-free’ by 2030, ie for less than 5% of the population to be smoking by then. For this to be achievable, more than 350,000 people would need to quit smoking every year, on average, between now and 2030 – without anybody taking up smoking in that time.

Smoking remains the single biggest preventable cause of death in the UK, leading to the loss of around 78,000 people each year. It costs the NHS £3.6 billion in medical and social care, compared to £17 billion for society – £5 billion higher than previously estimated.

Vapekit’s study has found that there are 129 dedicated local stop smoking support services across England and eight million smokers aged over 15 – approximately one local service per 62,000 smokers.

You can review the full findings on stop smoking support within England here.

Government cuts to public health funding have impacted the number of stop smoking support services available in England in recent years. Money is allocated from Westminster to local authorities to invest in these services and, at present, it’s clear that some local authorities are receiving a disproportionate amount compared to others, as many of the contrasting smoker-to-service ratios show.

Only half of local authorities offer all smokers the best support to quit, according to a report from Action on Smoking and Health and Cancer Research UK.

“Local authorities’ public health grant has been cut by 24% on a real-terms per capita basis since 2015/16 (equivalent to a reduction of £1 billion). This has had an adverse effect on councils’ ability to invest in services and functions that prevent ill health, reduce health inequalities and support a sustainable health and social care system.” 

Progress towards the Government’s smokefree ambition, House of Commons, 26 April 2022