Belfast Telegraph

Number of Northern Ireland smokers trying to quit drops sharply

Health campaigns: Margaret Carr
Health campaigns: Margaret Carr
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

The number of people attempting to stop smoking in Northern Ireland has fallen.

In the 12 months to April, 13,860 smokers set a quit date through smoking cessation services -­ down 1,601 (10%) on the previous year.

It follows a long-term trend with the number of people accessing smoking cessation services declining over the last five years - down from 21,779 in 2014/15.

Almost one in five (18%) of people in NI smoke - although that figure has dropped from 22% in 2014/15.

The figures were published yesterday by the Department of Health.

Health campaigners expressed concern, saying cigarettes were a major factor in a range of serious illnesses.

Figures show around 2,300 people die from smoking-related illnesses here each year, including various forms of cancer, stroke and heart disease.

Margaret Carr, Cancer Research UK's public affairs manager in Northern Ireland, said: "Around 18% of people here still smoke, which is worrying, as research shows that around 1,300 cases of cancer a year in Northern Ireland could be prevented if people did not smoke.

"Most people don't realise, but smoking causes at least 15 different types of cancer, not just lung cancer.

"Continued investment in stop smoking services and in public health campaigns is vital as evidence shows that they work.

"Quitting smoking is not easy. But you are more than three times more likely to be successful if you use professional support."

The Department of Health bulletin shows Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) was the most popular aid to help people stop smoking.

Some 70% of those who set a quit date used this therapy.

The statistics include details on how many had stayed off cigarettes four weeks after they had set a quit date.

At a four-week follow-up, 8,032 people - 58% of those setting a quit date - reported that they had successfully quit. The quit rate has remained broadly similar over the last five years.

The four-week success rate was 60% for males and 56% for females.

Of the 240 young people, aged 11 to 17, who set a quit date, 38% reported to have successfully quit at the four-week follow-up.

The number of people still not smoking after four weeks increased with age - from 38% for those aged 11 to 17, to 62% for those aged 60 and over.

A third (31%) of the 13,606 adults who set a quit date were from the most deprived section, or 'quintile', of society, while a further quarter (24%) were from the second most deprived quintile. This compares with 10% from the least deprived quintile.

The four-week success rate was 56% for those in the most deprived quintile compared with 63% in the least deprived quintile.

At the 52-week follow-up of those that had quit at four weeks in 2017/18, over a third (37%) reported still being tobacco free, while a quarter (25%) had resumed smoking. The other 38% could not be contacted.

Most (36%) of those who set a quit date smoked between 20 and 29 cigarettes a day. A further 31% smoked between 15 and 19 cigarettes a day.

The Department of Health published a '10 year tobacco control strategy for Northern Ireland' in 2012.

Its overall aim is to create a tobacco-free society.

The strategy has three key objectives - fewer people smoking, more smokers quitting and protection for all from secondhand smoke.

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