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Four in 10 smokers plan to quit in 2021

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FOUR out of 10 smokers (43%) plan to quit in 2021, according to a new survey from Public Health England which shows 7 out of 10 adults are motivated to make healthier lifestyle changes in 2021. [1]


The New Year may have got off to the worst possible start, leaving us feeling worried and helpless, but Fresh is urging smokers to do something life changing and make 2021 the year to quit as part of the Don't Wait campaign.


Despite Covid, 2020 was a peak year for quitting and many stop smoking services adapted by offering support over the phone and online rather than face to face.


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "2020 was an incredibly challenging year and for most of us, 2021 has brought new anxieties. However it is clear is that Covid has made many people more conscious of the need to protect their health - and that is incredibly important right now.


"It is hugely positive to see that nearly half of smokers plan to make a quit attempt in 2021 - I'd would urge anyone quitting to make sure they get the medication and the support they need to keep going and stay off tobacco, and consider switching to a less harmful vaping device.


"As well as improving overall health, quitting can reduce stress levels within a few weeks and save you thousands of pounds. It is never too late."


In normal times smokers seeking help to quit would be able to meet face-to-face with a trained professional to get counselling and stop smoking medications like nicotine replacement therapy. However, from one day to the next, on March 23rd 2020 this became impossible. Separate to the PHE survey, a new report by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and Cancer Research UK finds that instead of shutting up shop, stop smoking service staff worked from home supporting smokers over the phone and online [2]. This was the seventh annual report [2] looking at local tobacco control and smoking cessation services in England, providing a vital snapshot of how local authorities across England are working towards the national ambition to be smoke-free by 2030 during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Rachel Nichol, CGL Project Manager for Newcastle Stop Smoking+ Service, said: "Everyone is anxious about COVID-19 but we have seen that many smokers coming into our service are telling us that this as a reason for stopping.


"Smokers tell us that telephone support and the introduction of e-vouchers for quit smoking medication has made accessing the service easier.  This shows in the level of engagement we have had. More people are staying in treatment for longer and more people are quitting. Remote working also enables staff to have greater capacity to support more people."


Many partners also developed strong public communication strategies to motivate smokers to quit as well such as the Don't Wait campaign which ran across the North East, from Fresh, local authorities and the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System.


Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy at Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: "Our report demonstrates the ambition and commitment of councils to improving the health of their communities. During the toughest year for public health in our lifetime councils rose to the challenge, going above and beyond to provide vital support to those wanting to quit smoking. Councils deserve our praise, but they also deserve more funding for public health from Government after years of cuts."


If smokers have struggled to stop, switching over totally to vaping may provide an alternative quitting method, with recent research showing e-cigarettes to be 70% more effective than nicotine replacement therapy at helping smokers to stop completely.


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