The number of stop-smoking products dispensed in England dropped again this year, marking the tenth consecutive year prescriptions for the items have fallen.

The latest NHS Digital data, published earlier this week 8 (December), showed the total number of prescription items decreased from 740,000 in 2018/19 to 710,000 in 2019/20 – a 4% drop.

This means prescriptions for smoking cessation products have fallen by 72% over the last decade, with the total standing at 2.48 million items in 2009/10.

According to the data, NHS Wyre Forest, NHS South Worcestershire, NHS Redditch and Bromsgrove, NHS Stafford and Surrounds, and NHS Rotherham clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) had the lowest prescription rates, with all recording a rate of one item dispensed per 1,000 population.

Meanwhile, NHS Bradford City CCG had the highest rate of items dispensed, with 45 per 1,000 population.

The data also showed that in 2019 there were estimated to be 74,600 deaths attributable to smoking, which represents 15% of all deaths that year and a 3% decrease from 2018.

The number of people admitted to hospital for smoking-related health issues is however still on the increase, with over half a million hospital admissions related to smoking in 2019 – a 3% increase on 2018 and a 10% increase from 2009.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: 'Smoking rates are currently at a record low of 13.9%, which is a significant achievement, but the battle is by no means won.

'The Government is committed to addressing the harms from smoking and will publish a new tobacco control plan for England in the middle of next year to deliver its ambition of a smoke-free country by 2030.'

ASH comment

Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at charity on Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), told the Pharmacist that the decline in dispensing of smoking cessation products worsened when public health responsibilities were transferred to local government in 2013.

'This is part of a long-term trend with the big declines coming when public health responsibilities were transferred to local government in 2013,' she said.

'While it had never been envisaged that the NHS would stop providing evidence-based medications to smokers in their care in many places this is what has happened.'

She added: ‘It is to be hoped that with commitments to support more smokers through the NHS Long Term Plan in 2021 that this trend will reverse in future years. If we’re to achieve the Government’s ambition of a smokefree country by 2030 every part of the health care system will need to play it’s part.’

In January, a survey by ASH and Cancer Research UK charities found that almost a third (31%) of local authorities no longer provide specialist stop smoking services.