Council Approves Pilot Smoking Cessation Incentive Scheme

At the adults and health committee meeting today (Monday), councillors agreed to launch a trial smoking cessation incentive scheme to support pregnant women and others in their household to quit smoking.

Starting later this year, the new pilot scheme is not funded through council tax but via the public health grant and funding provided by the Cheshire and Merseyside Public Health (ChaMPs) collaborative to address health inequalities.

In Cheshire East, approximately 10.5 per cent of the general population and 10.8 per cent of pregnant residents (at the time of birth) smoke tobacco. 

Smoking (including passive or second-hand smoking) is the leading cause of cancer, preventable illness, and premature death in England, with about half of all lifelong smokers dying prematurely, losing on average around 10 years of life. Smoking in pregnancy can also have damaging impacts on the health of unborn children.

As well as being the largest cause of health inequality in the UK, smoking costs the economy approximately £13bn a year, including costs of £3bn to the NHS and to social care. 

Research published by Cochrane analysed the results of 33 trials in eight countries, encompassing more than 21,000 participants trying to give up cigarettes. This included 10 trials looking at pregnant women trying to quit. The study found people were 50 per cent more likely to stop smoking when receiving a financial reward than those who were not.  In pregnant women specifically, quit rates for those receiving incentives were double that of those who did not.

The recent ‘Khan Review: making smoking obsolete’ states the current rate of decline needs to be accelerated by 40 per cent to achieve the government’s smoke free 2030 target, and that we must “go faster”, “be bolder” and “do more to protect future generations”. The review includes a specific recommendation to provide financial incentives to support pregnant women to quit smoking.

Dr Matt Tyrer, Director of Public Health for Cheshire East Council

Dr Matt Tyrer, director of public health at Cheshire East Council, said: “There is strong evidence showing that offering financial rewards to stop smoking, combined with regular carbon monoxide testing to prove smoking status, can be very effective in reducing smoking rates and achieving successful quits. 

“We’re going to follow a similar innovative approach by providing vouchers, as part of a wider package of support, to encourage people to quit smoking for good and ultimately make our residents’ lives healthier and happier. 

“Providing vouchers for relatively small sums of money to encourage people to quit smoking is highly cost-effective, because the long-term health benefits of quitting smoking are so great.

“Quitting smoking is also one of the best things a woman and her partner can do to protect their baby’s health through pregnancy and beyond.” 

Residents can contact One You Cheshire East about quitting smoking, on freephone 0808 1643 202, or by visiting the One You website.   

Alternatively, NHS telephone and online support is available and can also be accessed through an NHS app. Visit the NHS website for more information.