Could e-cigarettes be to blame for a reduction in demand for NHS stop smoking services?

Are e-cigarettes resulting in reduction in demand for NHS quit smoking services?

Are e-cigarettes resulting in reduction in demand for NHS quit smoking services? - Credit: AP

The growing popularity of e-cigarettes has been partly blamed on a dramatic decrease in the number of people accessing NHS services to quit smoking.

New figures revealed that NHS Stop Smoking Services across England experienced a 19pc drop in new recruits last year and in Norfolk, the number of people who set a quit date dropped by almost a third in two years.

Officials from the Smokefree service in Norfolk said there had been a year-on-year decrease in the number of people seeking NHS support to help them stub out their habit, which may be down to smokers using e-cigarettes.

Bosses from Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCH&C), which runs the Stop Smoking Service in Norfolk, said 2,839 people set a quit date in 2013/14 with just over 50pc successfully quitting. However, in 2012/13, more than 3,000 people joined the scheme and more than 4,000 signed up in 2011/12.

Fotoula Blias, service manager for specialist therapies at NCH&C, said it was difficult to know exactly why the numbers were dropping. However, research suggested that a person was four times more likely to quit with one to one support, group therapy and medication.

'I suspect in part it is related to people trying to give up independently and adopting methods such as e-cigarettes which is less challenging emotionally, physically and psychologically, although the person will still be taking in nicotine. We are also finding we are getting down to the hardcore smokers who may find it extremely difficult to quit. '

'The Smokefree service is available all year round and we really encourage people to take the plunge and to stop smoking through campaigns like Stoptober,' she said.

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Figures published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed that there was a more than 20pc decrease in the number of people setting a quit date in the East of England last year.

Shamsher Diu, consultant in Public Health at Norfolk County Council, said: 'Services countywide, regionwide and locally have seen a fall in numbers accessing services. It is not because fewer people want to give up smoking, but more because they are finding alternative routes to quit (for example, nicotine replacement therapy such as patches and gum over the counter) or modifying their addiction to nicotine (e.g. e-cigarettes).

'Evidence tells us that the most effective way to stop smoking is to quit with NHS stop smoking services using medication and support. As yet e-cigarettes are not regulated and do not have the approval needed to be classified as medicines in a stop smoking programme.'

For more information, call the Norfolk service on 0800 0854 113.

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