Sunday, 2 January 2011

Scottish Government implores smokers to get NHS help to quit

In a press release that resembles a glossy magazine feature, the Scottish Government urges smokers to resolve to quit smoking 'for good', using NHS help. For the umpteenth time, we are told: 'you're more likely to succeed if you get help, rather than relying on willpower alone'.

The reports used to justify this claim are examined here by Chris Holmes. Even Tim Coleman of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies declares that nicotine replacement therapy has a 75 per cent failure rate at 12  months (of course he wants money to fund provision of smoking cessation treatments for longer than four weeks, as clearly it does not work within this time frame). So when we are told in the Scottish Government's health budget paper, 'There has been an increase of 73 per cent in smokers successfully quitting (one month post quit date) with the support of NHS Scotland stop smoking services', it is hard not to take it with a pinch of salt ... and a feeling that the Scottish public is being sold short.

Whatever Ms Shona Robison's credentials for giving medical advice, the suggestion that 'giving up smoking is the biggest single thing anyone can do to improve their health' is particularly silly. There is obviously no glib advice for non-smokers, who can expect more individually tailored suggestions to suit their specific situation. Health is not politics, and we don't go to politicians for medical advice.

In terms of the overall health budget the amount allocated to tobacco control (£12.3 million) is relatively small (although we might question why health budgets are allocated 'to support people in Scotland to maintain their health through commencement of the implementation of the recently enacted tobacco control legislation'). The budget for smoking cessation is separate (see question S3W-38042 at the foot of this link), amounting to a further £13 million – not a huge amount in budgetary terms, but too big given the high failure rate of the treatment.

Finally, the Scottish Government refers to a patient who has successfully stopped smoking using Champix (Chantix or varenicline). Given the reputation and record of Champix for inducing suicidal thoughts in hundreds of users (resulting in some actual suicides: see this link and others on Champix by following the label at the side of the blog), this should have been accompanied with a caution to readers.


Anonymous said...

The money is being spent on employing more 'smoking cessation advisers'
Our local hospital is short of nursing staff, doctors, cleaners etc. and yet on their notice board are just two jobs advertised. Both for smoking cessation advisers.

Anonymous said...

'There has been an increase of 73 per cent in smokers successfully quitting '

it's always 73% isn't it. Is 73 a magic number like 37? (very commonly picked by audiences of conjuring tricks)

George Speller

Anonymous said...

NRT products have a FAILURE RATE of 98.4%.

Anonymous said...

What they fail to mention that Cold Turkey has by far the the highest success rate.

From Dr Siegel's blog.

"The course also fails to mention that cold turkey quit attempts have been documented to be far more successful than planned quit attempts with the use of pharmaceutical aids. In fact, the course fails to mention that any course of action other than relying upon drugs as the primary mode of treatment should or could be considered by a physician or patient."