England’s 5.3 million smokers are being urged to quit this No Smoking Day (13 March) and signposted to ​​local stop smoking services.

It comes as nearly 400,000 vape kits are set to be distributed under the government’s swap-to-stop scheme and amid plans to phase out the sale of tobacco.

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has today posted on social media encouraging pharmacists to support patients to stop smoking with the Healthy Living Pharmacy lung cancer campaign and highlighted its smoking cessation resources on the NPA CancerHub.

Meanwhile, the government warned today that up to two in three long-term smokers will die from their smoking.

And that despite associated harms, it is estimated that nearly 50 million cigarettes are smoked every day in England. In 2022 to 2023 there were more than 400,000 hospital admissions in England due to smoking.

Smoking rates have reduced by two-thirds since the first No Smoking Day 40 years ago, the government added, but it is still the single largest preventable cause of death in England, estimated to account for 64,000 deaths annually.

The government is proposing the phasing out of the sale of tobacco so that any child born on or after 1 January 2009 can never legally be sold cigarettes.

Public health minister Andrea Leadsom said that smoking placed ‘a huge burden’ on the NHS.

‘That’s why No Smoking Day is still so important 40 years on from its launch,’ she said.

‘We are taking action to prevent our children from ever lighting a cigarette, and our proposed historic Tobacco and Vapes Bill will safeguard the next generation from the harms of smoking and risk of addiction.’

Last year saw renewed calls for a nationally commissioned non-referral smoking cessation service through community pharmacies, as the government announced major investment in local schemes – with funding available to local services expected to ‘more than double’ by next month to £140m.

At the time, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said that to avoid a ‘postcode lottery’, the government should commission a national service that builds on the existing advanced service to enable people to access smoking cessation support through non-referral routes.

Numerous smoking cessation services across England are commissioned through community pharmacies by local councils.

A national advanced service, which pharmacies can opt-in to provide does exist, but only supports smokers who have been referred to the service.

The Vision for Community Pharmacy, published last September, recommended ‘widening the scope of the NHS Smoking Cessation Service to cover all smokers – rather than just those referred by NHS Trusts – as well as users of vapes’.