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The BBC's Karen Allen
"Up until now, nicotine replacement therapies have only been availble at their full cost"
 real 56k

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"It is one of the biggest killers in the UK"
 real 56k

The BBC's Richard Hannaford
"Every year smoking kills more than 100 000 people in Britain"
 real 28k

Steve Crone, QUIT
"We think it is a great idea"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 00:23 GMT
NHS boost for nicotine patches
Nicotine patch
Smokers have better change of quitting with NRT
Nicotine replacement therapy is to be made available on the NHS as part of a national no-smoking drive.

People trying to kick the habit will also be able to buy the patches, gum, inhalers and lozenges in a variety of shops, not just over the counter at chemists.

This will benefit low income smokers, who do not pay for prescriptions.

The announcement coincides with National No Smoking Day and fulfills the commitment made in the NHS plan to ensure NRT is available on prescription in 2001.


Making it available on prescription will ensure the widest possible availability to all smokers

Yvette Cooper, public health minister

Public Health Minister Yvette Cooper said: "We know that 70% of smokers want to give up and nicotine replacement therapy is an effective treatment that doubles rates for people giving up.

"Making it available on prescription will ensure the widest possible availability to all smokers.

"It is absurd that people can buy cigarettes in supermarkets and newsagents but cannot buy patches or gums that they want to help them give up."

Inequalities

Until now, only those in specially-designated "Health Action Zones" in England could get nicotine replacement therapy on the NHS.

Richard Parish, Chief Executive of the Health Development Agency (HDA) said: "This is a great step forward in helping to reduce the inequalities of health in people across England - by removing, or heavily reducing, the financial cost of NRT, one of the main barriers to giving up smoking is now removed."

But a study released on Wednesday shows that the UK has a tough job ahead to kick the habit - we reach for our cigarettes earlier in the morning than just about everyone else in Europe.

But a separate report by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says that simply cutting down smoking rather than quitting completely will not boost your health.


My research has shown that low tar brands are a fool's paradise and that smokers actually inhale around eight times the amount of nicotine and tar than is stated on the packet

Professor Martin Jarvis, of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) has been shown to double a smokers' chances of quitting.

Reducing smoking is one of the government's key NHS targets as part of its "Our Healthier Nation" strategy.

The habit is a key contributor to both high rates of cancer and coronary heart disease in the UK among both men and women.

The government has already said that it will fund the use of Zyban - a drug which helps smokers quit the habit - on the NHS, at a cost of more than 40 per patient per month.

First cigarette

A survey by Professor Peter Boyle, from the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, revealed that over a quarter of UK smokers are lighting their first cigarette within five minutes of waking.

This is twice as many as in Italy and Germany.

Professor Boyle found that the need for an early cigarette could be the reason that one in three UK attempts to quit the habit fail in less than a week.

He said: "Armed with this data, we are in a unique position to further improve and increase the help available to smokers who want to stop."

Cutting down

ASH warned that cutting down the number of cigarettes smoked is a pointless strategy for people trying to protect their health.

They warn that cutting down tends to lull people into a false sense of security and that they just smoke their fewer cigarettes more deeply.

ASH director Clive Bates said: "It seems like common sense to advise cutting down, but actually it's a losing strategy which gives the appearance of doing something for your health, while distracting from the real business of quitting completely.

"It's a bit like advising an alcoholic to cut down intake by switching from wine to whisky. It's just a different way of consuming the same drug."

Professor Martin Jarvis, of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund's health behaviour unit, agreed: "My research has shown that low tar brands are a fool's paradise and that smokers actually inhale around eight times the amount of nicotine and tar than is stated on the packet."

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See also:

21 Nov 00 | Health
Nicotine patches 'should be free'
28 Nov 00 | Health
Nicotine linked to lung cancer
11 Sep 00 | Health
Smoking addiction 'sets in early'
11 Aug 00 | Health
'Ban nicotine patches on NHS'
27 Jun 00 | Health
Smoking 'wonder' drug hits UK
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