Sunday, 7 October 2012

Cost of stop smoking services rises to £2.2 million over 12 years. That's just Lothian

The smoking cessation gravy train rumbles on. The Scotsman reports a growth in annual expenditure on 'free nicotine patches and chewing gum' (a figure that presumably does not include associated personnel costs) between £102,000 and £2,200,000 over twelve years: a phenomenally swift increase. And we can see clearly the impact on smoking rates since 1999 in the graph below:

Figure 10.1, Scottish Government SHS report
(click to enlarge)
Not very impressive really, I think you will agree. Reports are still of 'attempts to quit', and the best (and only) results given in most reports show four-week quit rates. Amazingly the Scottish Government's report dated 25 September also shows 'a 31.5% increase in the number of items prescribed for smoking cessation [let's be precise!]', as if that were some kind of measure of success: in fact it appears that 31.5 per cent more treatments were dispensed in order to achieve the same results that were being achieved eleven years ago, at less than one twentieth of the cost. The smoking ban itself does not appear to have had any clear impact, other than to reverse the decline in smoking rates temporarily.

The latest draft budget for the health division (2013–2014) shows that the allocation for 'tobacco control' (a curious item for a health budget) is £12.3 million, unchanged from last year. Although not a large amount in budgetary terms it looks from this information as if it could be better used elsewhere in the economy – a point brought home particularly in these times of austerity, but use of public money in this way is never excusable.


david said...

The obvious (to us, though not to the general public) waste of taxpayers money is inexcusable, regardless of prevailing economic conditions. As are the cynical and patronising methods to deliberately mislead those who turn to the NHS for help. We are unrelentingly told that we should be more accountable for our lifestyle choices, yet accountability does not appear to apply to them. Those who are paid to promote such propaganda should hang their heads in shame.

Belinda said...

You are right David that this is never acceptable and I've adjusted this piece accordingly.

david said...

Yes, and a private sector organisation would, potentially, be prosecuted for making false/misleading claims. However one looks at this (opinions on smoking apart)it still amounts to a serious misappropriation of taxpayers money and a betrayal of public trust.