Cuts to the public health budget are a barrier to helping smokers quit their habit, the Local Government Association (LGA) said in response to NHS Digital Statistics showing the number of people accessing NHS Stop Smoking Services fell by 15 per cent in the year to March 2017.

The previous Government cut £331 million from councils' public health grant from 2016/17 to 2020/21. This followed a £200 million in-year reduction in 2015/16.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Community Wellbeing chairman at the LGA, said: “Councils, which are responsible for public health, run a range of innovative programmes to help people quit smoking and have taken great strides in helping people quit smoking and have taken great strides in helping people to stub out tobacco for good. 

“Despite this, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death, responsible for nearly 79,000 deaths a year. On top of that there are 1.7 million hospital admissions each year that can be contributed to conditions caused by smoking.

“Councils remain committed to helping smokers quit, however this is made all the more difficult by the government’s reductions to the public health budget, which councils use to fund stop smoking services. We have long argued that this is a short term approach which will only compound acute pressures for NHS services further down the line.”

Cllr Seccombe added that the rise of e-cigarettes has led to fewer people accessing smoking cessation services, and that councils are evaluating how they can reach the remaining population of smokers, whose habits may be harder to break.

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