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Health Insight April 2002: More encouragement to help smokers quit

  The government’s approach to helping people give up smoking has been boosted by the publication of guidance from NICE on the effectiveness of aids to smoking cessation. The Department of Health asked NICE to advise on the clinical and cost effectiveness of bupropion (Zyban) and Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). NICE have advised that both these therapies are not only clinically effective, but are among the most cost effective of all healthcare interventions. An explosion in the use of Zyban and other NRT therapies such as patches, gums, lozenges and inhalers is now expected. NICE believes the move could double the number of smokers who quit the habit, and the extra £20 to £56 million expected on the annual drugs bill for England and Wales would be more than offset by huge savings in the £1.5 billion spent a year on treating smoking-related diseases which kill more than 300 people a day.

Every health authority will now be obliged to make money available for the treatment – this was optional before. Most NRT products were available over-the-counter in pharmacies, except Zyban, which was only available on private prescription after safety concerns were raised following the deaths of fifty-eight people while taking the drug. NICE accepts its ruling will increase the workload in smoking cessation clinics run by doctors and nurses, but says that in the long term GPs should have to see fewer patients made seriously ill by smoking.

The government has also announced that it will take the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill through the Commons. The proposed legislation will ban press, billboard and internet advertising of tobacco products and will prohibit the promotion of smoking through free distribution of tobacco products, coupons and mailshots. It will place restrictions on the display and promotion of tobacco products in shops, through regulations made under the bill. The legislation will also bring an end to sponsorship by tobacco companies of sporting and other events.

More than a thousand Londoners alone die from coronary heart disease every year because of passive smoking, a report says. The London Assembly’s Smoking in Public Places Committee found that people in the capital visited smoky public places, such as pubs, clubs or restaurants, two or three times a week.

Source: Guardian 12th April, Press releases (DoH), BBC Online

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