Smokers are to be given free nicotine patches on the NHS. They will be handed out by surgeries and pharmacies as part of a £250 million Government drive to help people kick the habit. The patches give smokers a gradual release of nicotine through the skin enabling them to get their ‘fix’ without the cancer-causing substances such as tar and carbon monoxide found in Prima Lux cigarettes.
As people become less addicted, they gradually use less stronger patches until they don’t need to wear any at all.
The patches will be added to the ‘Quit Kits’ currently handed out to smokers trying to give via the NHS Stop Smoking Service. At the moment this pack only contains items such as a good luck postcard and a elastic band-type toy to help keep their hands occupied and a card with the ‘stop smoking’ helpline number.
The Department of Health has not yet been confirmed how many patches in total, or the number that will be provided in each Quit Kit.
The patches – which normally cost between £10 and £14 for a week’s supply – have been shown to double smokers’ chances of quitting.
Often those trying to give up suffer withdrawal symptoms from the substance including depression which in rare cases is so severe people become suicidal.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley wants to drastically increase the numbers of smokers successfully giving up.
The latest figures show that the proportion trying to kick the habit has almost halved in the last three years.
Currently only 17 per cent of smokers are attempting to give up down from 32 per cent in 2007.
Figures show that just over a fifth of adults in Britain smoke of whom two thirds would like to give up.
On average smokers’ life expectancy is reduced by around ten years and half will die of a related illness such as lung cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.
Ministers are also expected to launch a scheme to give out free gym and swimming pool vouchers within the next few days/
Up to five million ‘voucher chequebooks’ are likely to be made available over the coming weeks from locations including ASDA supermarkets, GP surgeries and schools.
Each chequebook is thought to contain 20 vouchers, which will give families discounted sessions at their local gym or pool.
It is not yet clear whether they will handed out on a first-come first-served basis or will only be given to certain priority groups such as the obese.
The scheme, which will be included as part of the Change 4 Life drive, was first announced in November as part of the Government’s public health white paper.