Help people make informed decisions when they want to quit smoking

Published at 29 March, 2018 00:00.

Supporting image for Help people make informed decisions when they want to quit smoking

NICE and Public Health England have published updated guidelines for health practitioners and stop smoking services on the best ways to help people quit smoking.

The new guideline recommends prioritising specific groups who are at the highest risk of harm from smoking, such as women who are pregnant and people with mental health problems.

It recommends that people are asked about their smoking and encouraged to stop every time they see a health or social care worker. It also highlights the existing targets that stop smoking services should set, such as treating at least 5% of the estimated local population who smoke each year.

The guideline includes evidence-based interventions that should be available to adults who smoke including: behavioural support, non-nicotine medications to help cravings and withdrawal symptoms, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and very brief advice.

It was noted that people who smoke often ask healthcare professionals about using e-cigarettes. The guideline recommends that people should be advised on their use.

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE, said:

"Smoking is the main cause of preventable illness and death in England. It is imperative that we give people the support and advice they need to quit. Many people use e-cigarettes to help them stop smoking. The committee considered it likely that they are substantially less harmful than smoking. 

"As a relatively new product, the long-term impact of their short-term use as well as the long-term health impact of their long-term use is still developing. The committee was concerned that people who smoke should not be discouraged from switching to e-cigarettes because the evidence is still developing. Our guidance therefore recommends that healthcare professionals help people make informed decisions on their use."

In 2015/16, around 474,000 NHS hospital admissions in England were linked to smoking-related conditions. In addition to this in 2015 around 16% (79,000) of all deaths were due to smoking.

Professor John Newton, director of Health Improvement, said: “Despite declining smoking rates, nearly 7 million people in England still smoke. With most smokers wanting to quit, it’s vital that they get the support they need to give them the best chance of success.

“All frontline healthcare professionals play a role and this new guidance provides recommendations to inform their advice to patients who smoke.”