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‘Deeply concerning’ cuts to local stop smoking services

Local authority smoking cessation services have suffered increasing cuts across the country, a new study has suggested.

Charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says it has uncovered a “deeply concerning” decrease in the funding to “life-saving” services in the sector.

The report is based on 2014, 2015 and 2016 surveys of local tobacco control leads, with a 16%, 39% and 59% of services cut respectively.

The organisation argued that pressure has increased since 2013, when health budgets were passed from the NHS to local authorities.

“It is most disappointing to see how much funding has been cut from local authority budgets for smoking cessation, particularly given the government’s current policy on this,” commented Sean O’Sullivan, head of health and social policy at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

“Access to local stop smoking support services within the community are vital for pregnant as smoking during pregnancy still remains a risk factor for stillbirths. If we are serious about reducing the negative consequences of smoking in pregnancy, smoking cessation services should be increased, not reduced.

“Midwives and other healthcare professionals will find it increasingly difficult to encourage and support women to stop smoking if the smoking cessation services they need to refer them to are no longer there.”

Treatment and care for people with smoking-related diseases costs councils as much as £760m each year before the addition of cessation programmes.

When the study was announced Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA Community Wellbeing Board, commented: “With one in five still smoking, clearly there is a lot more to be done.

“However, this is made all the more difficult by the government’s reductions to the public health budget… We have long argued that this is a short-term approach which will only compound acute pressures for NHS services further down the line.”

Even in local authorities where stop smoking services were classed as ‘high priority’, a documented 40% of them were still making cuts to funding.

“It is deeply concerning that these life-saving services are being eroded year after year, especially in areas where there isn’t the political will to help smokers quit,” said George Butterworth, senior policy manager at Cancer Research UK and co-author of the report.

“However, local authorities are facing impossible decisions with their public health budgets being repeatedly cut as responsibilities increase. We urgently need national government to reverse the cuts they have made to public health funding before it is too late.”


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