Posted on 30 September 2022

​As autumn slowly creeps back into the minds of everyone in the country, a renewed drive by the NHS around smoking cessation has started, with an ambitious campaign to appeal to millions of UK residents who are yet to attempt stopping the habit. The campaign drives come at the same time as the Stoptober campaign – which gets people to pledge to stop smoking for the length of October – which has released a powerful press release aimed at reaching more smokers nationwide. Although the habit has become less popular, more than 1 in 10 adults nationwide still engage regularly with smoking. With NHS budgets stretched and staffing levels a big issue service wide, these public health campaigns come at a crucial time where diseases of lifestyle still have hefty health costs and require specialist services.

We have probably all heard the often-touted claim that smoking is the number 1 preventable cause of illness and death in England, although one may posit this surely will be taken over by diseases of obesity as smoking rates fall. In a 24th September press release, the Government discussed the wide-ranging drains on society smoking is associated with; “According to estimates by Action on Smoking and Health, the annual costs of smoking to productivity are £13.2 billion. Treating illnesses associated with smoking also costs the NHS £2.4 billion a year, with the wider cost to society in England being approximately £17 billion a year”.

The press release discussed the bottom-up approach (from people upwards into society) that often works in public health campaigns, which requires the highlight that people are strong enough to make these choices themselves, rather than always relying on doctor support. The same aforementioned press release with Dr Max Pemberton, a consultant psychiatrist discussed the importance of confidence and belief (self-efficacy) which are behind successful cessation attempts; “What is really interesting is just how much of an impact self-efficacy, that sense of self-belief and confidence, has on quitting success. That confidence is something we can really help to influence. It really does show the power of the mind – self-belief when combined with other quitting aids such as vapes or NRT effectively equip people in giving up”. Self-efficacy can be improved by a good support network, exercise, therapy, relationships with your children and partner and engaging in simple tasks you enjoy to get a sense of achievement.

With the dawning of October days away, it’s timely to highlight social initiatives such as Stoptober, which has transcended the realms of strict public health and become somewhat of a pop culture initiative to encourage smoking cessation. After more than 10 years of the movement, the campaign came with clever thinking surrounding the evidence that those who quit for 28 days are 5 times more likely to quit smoking for good. This year’s campaign was launched on the 24th September for a 1st October start with Strictly Come Dancing star James Jordan discussing his quitting journey with aforementioned psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton and NHS stop smoking support workers.

Patients engaging in Stop Smoking services from the NHS are often unsure of what to expect and may feel guilty, overwhelmed, or scared to engage in the service, often for fear of judgement of their problem or the uncertainty of what to expect. The services provide initial assessment, one to one and group stop smoking services which can take on a counselling model, supplies of stop smoking materials such as nicotine replacement or more significant medication and referral to other services such as drug and alcohol services or mental health support. Jenner Percival, a stop smoking adviser trainer said, "The majority of people who see an adviser will get through the first month after quitting without smoking a cigarette. Overall, you're up to 3 times more likely to stop smoking for good if you use a combination of stop smoking treatment and receive support from an NHS Stop Smoking Service”. Engaging in services is one of the best ways to quit, but individuals must remember it is whatever approach suits you best. Those who did engage in the services have had impressive results, with the following statistics from NHS Stop Smoking services at year-end December 2021;

  • 54.5% of people successfully quit (self-reported)

  • Of 130,737 people setting a quit date, 71,203 were successful

  • Of those successfully quitting, 5.6% had their results confirmed by Carbon Monoxide verification

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