Nearly half of all local authorities in England did not commission a universal stop smoking service last year because of government cuts to public health budgets, according to research.
A study by Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking and Health, which revealed that local authority spending on stop smoking services and wider tobacco control fell by £41 million between 2014 and 2018, found that 44% of local authorities failed to commission a service for everyone in 2018 although 65% rolled out a specialist service.
Just 9% of local authorities commissioned stop smoking support from health professionals in primary care and 3% did not commission any services at all, leaving more than 100,000 smokers without access to support.
The study, based on an online survey of tobacco control leads in local authorities and telephone and web research, also found that 18% of local authorities who took part in the study did not have a specific budget because of “a shift to an integrated lifestyle model” while decommissioning left 3% without a budget.
Of the local authorities that had a stop smoking budget, 36% had theirs reduced and just 4% saw theirs rise.
“The principal reasons for budget cuts in 2018 were, as in previous years, the cuts in the public health grant and the wider reductions in central government funding for local authorities,” the report said.
The research drew responses from 102 individuals and garnered access to data on 107 local authorities with responsibility for public health.
Stop smoking budgets in 50% and 59% of local authorities in England were cut in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
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