Half of all smokers underestimate the health and financial impacts of smoking

Campaign launched to help smokers quit this New Year

As millions of New Year’s resolutions are made today, new NHS Smokefree research1 reveals that many smokers are largely underestimating how damaging smoking is to their personal health and finances.

The research shows:

  • More than half (53%) of smokers underestimate the number of people who die annually from smoking related diseases by at least 70,000 (the actual figure is over 80,000 deaths a year in England as a result of smoking).
  • More than half (58%) of smokers underestimate how many long term smokers die early from smoking related disease (the actual figure is that 1 in 2 of all long-term smokers will die early from smoking related disease).
  • More than a third (35%) of smokers underestimate the number of cancer deaths caused by smoking (the actual figure is that smoking is estimated to be responsible for almost a third of all cancer deaths in the England2.
  • And surprisingly, 8% of smokers still do not believe that smoking can seriously damage their health and lead to premature death

Smokers also underestimate the financial costs of smoking3 – on average smokers estimate that smoking 20-a-day habit is costing them £1800 per year. With a packet of 20 cigarettes now costing on average £6.59, smokers are underestimating this by more than £600. In reality, a 20-a-day smoker could save £2,405 a year if they quit.

The research also suggested that many smokers are not stopping smoking because of misconceptions they have about quitting: over a third said that they feel too stressed to try to quit (33%), the same amount are not quitting because they don’t feel they have the willpower required (33%) or are not quitting because they tried before and failed (35%).

In reality, research shows that smoking causes more stress and anxiety than not smoking and that quitting can help to reduce stress4. Evidence also shows that you can increase your chances of quitting successfully by using NHS support and that your willpower can be boosted with simple exercises available in the new and improved Quit Kit.

Help is at hand for the thousands of smokers who want to quit in the New Year. The Department of Health is launching an advertising campaign aimed at giving people the right tools to quit smoking by encouraging them to get a new and improved NHS Quit Kit from a participating pharmacy in Englandfrom 1 January. To find your nearest stockist text SEARCH and your postcode to 88088 or search online at www.nhs.uk/smokefree.

The NHS Quit Kit has been developed by experts together with smokers and ex-smokers and contains practical tools and advice to help smokers quit smoking for good. Items include a health/wealth wheel which helps quitters calculate how much they are saving and the improvements they’ll see to their health; MP3 downloads which are scientifically proven to reduce cravings and a ‘tangle’ toy to help keep hands busy. The Quit Kit also contains information on other free quitting help such as local Stop Smoking Services, plus smokers can sign up to get new motivational text messages straight to their mobile phone.

Anne Milton, Public Health Minister said:

“Quitting smoking is the very best thing you can do to improve your health this New Year. What’s clear is that the majority of smokers want to quit smoking and free NHS help is available to help them quit for good.

“The new and improved NHS Quit Kit is available in chemists who are working with us acrossEngland and will give smokers who want to give up advice, information and tools to help them enjoy a healthier 2012.”

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, Action on Smoking & Health (ASH) said:

“If you’re thinking of quitting this Christmas Quit Kits are full of ideas that will increase your chances of success. Order one now and it will arrive in time to help with your New Year’s resolution to quit. And do consider going to the NHS stop smoking services as well, where you can get professional support and medication to help you cope with the withdrawal symptoms.    

“Last but not least remind yourself that quitting won’t just make you much healthier but also wealthier and there’s now good evidence it reduces your stress levels too.”

John Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist at ASDA said:

“The single biggest difference you can make to your health as a smoker, is quitting. As this is easier said then done, Asda Pharmacy has teamed upwith the Department of Health to provide our customers with access to the (free) NHS Quit Kit.  Our pharmacists are also there to support and advise people on their personal quit plan”

Janice Perkins, Superintendent Pharmacist at The Co-operative Pharmacy, said: “Last year Quit Kits were well received by our customers and we are pleased to be able to support this important initiative once again.  The scheme helps to give people morechoice and opportunity to quit smoking for good.

“We know that the majority of smokers say they want to give up, but without the proper support many people find this difficult. Stopping smoking can make a huge difference to your health and it is never too late to quit.”

Sainsbury’s spokesperson said:

“Our pharmacists are trained to provide help in smoking cessation across the year but we know that, after the excesses of the festive season, our customers are more likely to seek help in the new year.  We’re delighted to be able to offer them a complimentary Quit Kit as they are an excellent tool, used in conjunction with support from our pharmacists, for helping customers to stick to their new year resolutions.”

Alison Freemantle, pharmacist and stop smoking expert at Lloydspharmacy said:

“Lloydspharmacy is pleased to be working with the NHS Quit Kit campaign. We understand it can be difficult to give up but with support smokers are more likely to succeed. Our teams are able to provide the NHS Quit Kits, offer ongoing advice and help individuals navigate the range of nicotine replacement products that are available so that they find the right one for them.

“We’re encouraging smokers to leave their old, smoking selves behind and start working towards a healthier lifestyle.”
To find your nearest Quit Kit pharmacy stockist text SEARCH and your postcode to 88088 or search online at nhs.uk/smokefree
Notes to Editors

  • For media queries please contact DH Press Office on 020 7210 5221 or Blue Rubicon on 020 7260 2700
  • References
    1YouGov carried out research into 1,000 smoking adults in England, undertaken between 8th-12th December 2011.
    2Statistics on Smoking: England, 2010; NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care
    3ComRes carried out research into 1,746 adults between 21st – 22nd September 2011, 500 of whom smoked
    4In the American Psychological Association’s American Psychologist. Psychologist Andy Parrott, Ph.D., of the University of East London says the evidence shows that the apparent relaxant effect of smoking only reflects the reversal of the tension and irritability that develop during nicotine depletion. Far from acting as an aid for mood control, nicotine dependency seems to increase stress. And reviewing the evidence surrounding smoking cessation and stress, Professor Parrott says studies show that quitting smoking reduces stress
  • Case studies of adults who have quit smoking for variety of reason are also available for interview – please contact Blue Rubicon on 020 7260 270
  • Background facts:
    There are over 8 million smokers in England
    Smoking is still the biggest cause of premature death and preventable disease in England – bigger than the next 6 causes put together
    Smoking kills 80,000 people a year. Around half of all smokers will eventually die because of a smoking related illness.
    Smoking costs the NHS an estimated £2.7bn a year
  • Participating pharmacies across Englandwill be distributing Quit Kits. Visit the smokefree website to find your nearest stockist.
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