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Call for rethink in anti-smoking drive as numbers quitting in Northern Ireland fall

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Northern Ireland's smoking cessation services are in need of an overhaul, a charity has said. (stock photo)

Northern Ireland's smoking cessation services are in need of an overhaul, a charity has said. (stock photo)

Northern Ireland's smoking cessation services are in need of an overhaul, a charity has said. (stock photo)

Northern Ireland's smoking cessation services are in need of an overhaul, a charity has said.

It comes after Government figures revealed another decline in the number of people registering to quit cigarettes in the past year.

Almost 15,500 people took up treatment with the health service's cessation programme in the 12 months to April.

The number of those taking up the treatment has fallen in the past five years from 26,870 in 2013/14. Last year the amount of people seeking the service dropped by 3,176 (17%) to 15,461.

Almost 60% successfully quit within four weeks last year, figures from the Department of Health show.

Some 905 of those looking help to quit were pregnant women, and 24% of them were not able to quit within four weeks.

The majority (71%) of those on the treatment programme took nicotine replacement therapy. Around 20% of people here smoke compared with 33% in 1983, the Government figures show.

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Neil Johnston, public affairs adviser for Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke, said the decline in those taking up the service did not indicate a reduction in people smoking.

"Smoking prevalence hasn't really changed in recent years," he said.

"The decline in those using cessation services has been pretty dramatic and it is partly driven by people switching from tobacco to e-cigarettes.

"Obviously, e-cigarettes are preferable, but we have no idea of the long-term effects and would not consider them a long-term solution.

"Smoking is particularly high in deprived areas and we need to concentrate there and get the message into primary schools.

"But people know the messages, they know smoking is bad - 50% of smokers die from a smoking-related illness.

"There is no magic bullet here. The gradual pushing up of the price of tobacco and the outdoor smoking ban are having an impact.

"It's about getting a broader message of improving health and encouraging exercise."


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