Fewer smokers could kick the habit after a “vital” New Year’s smoking campaign was axed following “foolhardy” Government budget cuts, a charity has warned.
A Public Health England (PHE) scheme in January which aims to harness the motivation of new year resolutions is not running after its overall anti-smoking budget was reduced to £3.8 million from £5 million.
But the drop in funding “undermines the Government’s aim to make England smoke-free by 2030” as “mass media campaigns are essential in helping people quit” the British Lung Foundation (BLF) said.
The BLF also said PHE’s 28-day “Stoptober” campaign had seen fewer successful quit attempts after less advert coverage on TV and radio.
E-cigarettes have helped thousands of people in the UK successfully quit smoking. Yet 44% smokers either wrongly believe vaping is as harmful as smoking or don’t know that vaping poses much lower risks to health. #HealthHarms#Smokefreepic.twitter.com/LXd6kFUWGg
— Public Health England (@PHE_uk) December 28, 2018
The rate of successful quitting attempts fell from 8% of all smokers in 2015 to 6% in 2016 after spending on media messaging was reduced from £3.1 million to £390,000, according to the charity.
Senior policy officer Rachael Hodges said: “Slashing budgets for these campaigns is a foolhardy decision which not only lets down smokers who are looking to quit but will also result in further pressure on the NHS due to smoking-related illnesses.
“Although smoking rates are declining, we must not be complacent.
“Mass media campaigns are vital in encouraging smokers to quit and stay smoke-free.”
— Public Health England (@PHE_uk) October 31, 2019
Nearly six million people in England are smokers and around one in five people in the UK is affected by lung disease, the charity said.
The BLF wants the Treasury to “reinstate comprehensive funding for both Stoptober and the January Health Harms campaign”.
It said smoking “costs society more than £11 billion per year” of which “£2.5 billion falls directly on the NHS”.
Duncan Selbie, PHE chief executive, said: “Within the available money, campaigns have been reprioritised, with the agreement of ministers – with an emphasis on the best start to life, continuing to tackle tobacco harm, raising awareness of the symptoms of cancer, tackling antimicrobial resistance and promoting good mental health.”