Success rates for smokers trying to give up have hit a record high in part thanks to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, figures reveal.
Nearly 20% of those who attempted to quit in the first half of 2017 managed to kick the habit, a University College London report shows.
By contrast, over the past decade the average has been 15.7%. UCL researchers defined successful quitting as not having smoked in the previous 12 months.
The increase in those giving up has been driven by a sharp increase in kicking the habit among the less well off. Success rates among poorer people have historically been low but, for the first time, smokers with manual jobs have practically the same chance of quitting as those in white collar jobs.
E-cigarettes have become the most popular method of quitting nationwide. In many ways, they mimic the experience of smoking a cigarette and are a far more attractive proposition for many people than putting on a nicotine patch. Their usage, combined with local stop smoking services, is the most effective way to give up.
The news comes as Public Health England (PHE) prepare to launch new TV adverts to encourage people to try e-cigarettes if they are struggling to quit regular smoking.
The UCL report gives a number of other reasons to explain why people are enjoying success in quitting smoking.
The added restrictions on smoking in public places and elsewhere discourages the practice, the banning of the use of attractive brand imagery on tobacco packaging has seen sales fall sharply, plus there has been the development of a strong anti-smoking culture in England.
This has helped stop-smoking campaigns such as Stoptober, which runs through October, become so effective. Last year more than half (53%) of all those taking part in Stoptober used an e-cigarette as a quitting aid.
This year the TV ad for the campaign will promote e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking while the campaign will do more to encourage smokers keen to try e-cigarettes to help them stop smoking.
Not everyone is convinced of the benefits of e-cigarettes though. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has issued new guidance that does not list e-cigarettes as an aid to stopping smoking.
It warns that patients should be told by doctors there is currently little evidence on the benefits or harms of e-cigarettes. They are, indeed, not a universal panacea and experts are keen to stress the challenges that lay ahead.
The deputy chief medical officer, Prof Gina Radford, said: “The battle against smoking is far from over – it is still the country’s biggest killer, causing 79,000 deaths a year. And for every death, another 20 smokers are suffering from a smoking-related disease.
“Far too many people are still dying as a result of smoking but there has never been a better time to quit – the culture has changed, strong legislation is in place and effective support is available.