The number of people in England helped to quit smoking by the NHS rose sharply last year, official figures show.
Smoking is linked to major diseases
In the 12 months to March 2005, NHS Stop Smoking Services recorded 297,828 people as successfully giving up for at least four months.
This compared to 204, 876 in the previous 12 month period.
The stop-smoking service cost the tax-payer £46.8m. A similar amount was spent on nicotine replacement therapy and anti-smoking drug prescriptions.
The figures show that, during the year, more than half a million people set a quit date through NHS Stop Smoking Services.
At the four week follow-up 56% of these people had successfully achieved their goal.
The chances of success appeared to rise with age. Some 66% of those aged 60 and over stuck to their guns, while the figure for those aged under 18 was just 39%.
Around 80% of those who signed up for NHS help received nicotine replacement (NRT) therapy only.
One in 20 received the anti-smoking drug Zyban, and just one in 100 received both Zyban and NRT.
Ministers have set a target of reducing smoking prevalence from 26% to 21% by 2010.
A study published in the British Medical Journal in March warned NHS services were insufficient on their own to discourage sufficient numbers of people from smoking.
But Ben Youdan, chief executive of the charity No Smoking Day, said: "It is excellent news that the number of smokers stopping with help from the NHS services continues to rise.
"The smoking cessation services have gone from strength to strength and the UK continues to lead the world saving lives through helping smokers to conquer their addiction."