Tobacco companies make millions while people are dying: Cancer Research UK slams Government cuts to stop-smoking services

Swingeing Government cuts to funding to help people quit smoking in the North West are denying vulnerable people the kind of "vital help" that could save their lives, according to Cancer Research UK.
Funding for programmes to help people quit smoking have been slashed.Funding for programmes to help people quit smoking have been slashed.
Funding for programmes to help people quit smoking have been slashed.

Following the publication of a new report from Action on Smoking and Health and Cancer Research UK, it has been revealed that in the past five years, the amount of spending on support for those addicted to smoking has fallen by 30% in the region, with spending per smoker having fallen by 16% from £17 in 2014 to £14.30 in 2017.

As a result of their own cuts to vital support resources, the Government is at risk of missing its target of reducing smoking rates to 12% or less across England by 2022, with the dramatic 30% reduction in public health budgets likely to blame for the threadbare services.

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"The UK Government needs to reverse its cuts to public health budgets in England," said Kruti Shrotri Cancer Prevention Policy Manager at Cancer Research UK. “Too many people still die from smoking, and we know that most smokers want to quit. Smokers in disadvantaged circumstances generally find quitting harder but are around three-times more likely to quit successfully with the help of stop-smoking services.

"We can’t deny those most in need of vital help that could save their life," Kruti added.

While smoking rates are generally falling, for some demographics including pregnant women the figures have plateaued, with 44% of local authorities no longer offering a specialist stop-smoking service and over 100,000 smokers unable to access any local authority-commissioned support at all, with entire networks slashed in their entirety due to budget cuts.

Calling for cuts to be reversed, for stop-smoking services to be evidence based, and for local authorities to coordinate their tobacco control efforts, the Action on Smoking and Health and Cancer Research UK report also found that funding for measures to reduce youth smoking and help-quit initiatives has fallen by a staggering £41.3 million since 2014/15 in England as a direct result of the Conservative government's 2015 decision to take £200 million out of public health budget.

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Ciaran Osborne, Director of Policy, Action on Smoking and Health, commented: “Neither local authorities nor national Government can afford to be complacent. Stopping smoking saves lives," with Bob Blackman MP, Chairman of the APPG on Smoking and Health, adding: “Tobacco companies continue to make millions in profit in this country as public health budgets are under pressure. The Government should compel tobacco companies to pay up so we can invest in what is needed to help more smokers quit.”

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health recently called for a package of measures to re-energise the country’s tobacco control strategy, with both ASH and Cancer Research UK backing the demands, particularly those for a levy on tobacco companies to pay for evidence-based measures to reduce smoking.