North West smokers at risk due to anti-smoking funding cuts

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RESIDENTS across the North West are being urged to back a hard-hitting initiative to support measures to tackle tobacco harm, as new figures released on Wednesday reveal dangerous funding cuts.

A joint report from Cancer Research UK and Action Smoking Health found 50 per cent of local authorities in the region were forced to reduce their smoking cessation budgets in the last year, putting vital services to tackle smoking at risk – as well as thousands of lives.

Forty two per cent of councils in the area have cut their budgets for important tobacco control measures more
broadly, such as tackling illegal tobacco, anti-tobacco marketing campaigns, and staff time dedicated to
tackling tobacco.

The challenge to the Government which has cut North West local authority funding, comes as Cancer
Research UK launches its new campaign – Don’t Quit on Us – to help ensure the region’s smokers get the
motivation and support they need to give up the deadly habit.

Smoking is linked to 14 different types of disease including most lung cancers.

Forty seven per cent of local authorities surveyed said that tobacco control was a high priority for them.

In the North West around 18.6 per cent of people smoke which is significantly higher than the England average – this means losing these services could end up costing the NHS millions.

Government cuts to smoking

Many have signed the Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control and are committed to working in partnership with smoke-free organisations, such as Healthier Futures to help tackle the harm caused by tobacco.

The report suggests however, that the repeated Government cuts to councils’ public health budgets over the last three years have caused financial pressures which could significantly undermine their efforts to stub-out smoking.

Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the North West said: “The figures released expose the terrible financial pressures facing councils across the region.

“Losing Stop Smoking Services is bad news for the smoker, for the councils and for the NHS.

“We’re not just talking about numbers on a balance sheet. Smoking is a lethal addiction – less money to help people stop could be a matter of life or death.

“We have a vision for the future: a tobacco-free North West where -by 2035- fewer than one in 20 adults in the region smoke.

“If we are to realise this ambition, then it’s vital to help smokers quit by ensuring that the most effective route – through a Stop Smoking Service – receives continued investment.

“Now we need as many local councillors as possible to support our call and show the Government that we aren’t about to let them quit on us.”​

Specialist Stop Smoking Services provided as part of a comprehensive strategy are around three times more effective at helping smokers to quit, in comparison to those trying to go it alone.

Research shows that every £1 spent on smoking cessation saves around £10 in a lifetime health care costs and in the North West each year authorities spend an average of £13.05 per smoker on helping them quit.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive from AHS (Action Smoking Health), said: “There has been some great work in the North West to tackle tobacco including reducing smoking in pregnancy, a regional programme to tackle illicit tobacco, creating more smoke-free spaces to protect children and reducing young people’s smoking rates to historically low levels.

“If the Government is serious about tackling cancer, and other smoking related diseases, then marking councils’ public health budgets for substantial cuts is short-sighted.

“The work of local authorities is vital – they’re on the frontline helping people stop smoking and ultimately they are helping to save lives.

“That’s why we’re asking the Government not to quit on smokers, and to make sure they have the help they need to stop.

“Every smoker should have access to a high quality Stop Smoking Service, which is supported by a wider tackling tobacco programme at a local and regional level.”

To find out more about Cancer Research UK’s Don’t Quit on Us campaign click here.

By Katie Barrow

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