smoking and smokers - pic by Sarah Johnson creative commons

Cheshire East Council is considering paying people hundreds of pounds to quit smoking, writes Belinda Ryan.

It could launch a pilot scheme which would see the general population offered up to £200 to quit and pregnant women offered £400.

According to the council, approximately 10.5% of people in the borough and 10.8% of pregnant women smoke tobacco.

The number of people stubbing out the habit is declining so the authority is now considering paying them to quit.

But councillors gave the idea a mixed reaction at today’s adults and health committee.

In a report, the authority stated: “There is robust evidence that financial incentives increase smoking quit rates.

“Evidence shows people are around 50% more likely to quit with incentives. Furthermore, in pregnant women specifically, the likelihood of quitting is doubled.

“The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimates that for every £1 invested in smoking cessation, £10 is saved in future health care costs.”

Someone smoking five cigarettes a day pays £1,128 over a year, or £2,257 for 10 a day and £4,515 for smoking 20 a day, according to figures based on the average price of a pack of 20 cigarettes at three major supermarkets.

Several wards in Crewe and Macclesfield have significantly higher than average rates of young smokers and deaths from respiratory diseases.

One proposal is that the £200 would be paid via three instalments to most people and the £400 via five instalments for pregnant women.

Those participating would have to take exhaled carbon monoxide tests to confirm quitting status.

According to the report a budget of £116,500 is proposed – £95,000 from the ring-fenced public health grant and £21,500 from the Champs Public Health Collaborative.

A formal decision report be brought to its next meeting in July on whether this, or an alternative option, should go ahead.

Dr Andrew Turner told the adults and health committee it had proved successful in other areas.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence estimates for every £1 invested in smoking cessation, £10 is saved in future health care costs.

But some councillors were not convinced.

Cllr Andrew Kolker (Dane Valley, Con) said: “If an individual is so determined to ignore the financial benefit of £5,000 a year and is willing to ignore the health benefits to the unborn and very young child, I wonder whether a couple of hundred pounds in their pocket is going to cut the mustard.”

Cllr Kolker quoted from an expert’s report in the British Medical Journal: “He said that because smokers have a shorter life, they live on average eight years less than non-smokers, they miss out on about £130,000 of state pension.

“On top of that because most people draw significantly more on the NHS in the last few years of their life…they don’t draw that as well, because they died early.

“And so his conclusion was that actually smokers save the country, save the exchequer, a vast amount of money.

“On top of the fact of course that they kindly donate 70% of the cost of the pack of cigarettes to the exchequer as well.”

Cllr Denis Murphy (Congleton East, Lib Dem) agreed, adding: “I would have it the other way around, I would be inclined to add 30% tax to the cost of a packet of cigarettes and see if that works.”

Others believed the scheme should be considered.

Poynton councillor Nicky Wylie (non-grouped), who used to deliver smoking cessation programmes as a health visitor, said: “From my experience you need to be in the house, working with the individuals and building up the rapport.”

Cllr Janet Clowes (Wybunbury, Con), who also has a background in health care, said: “You cannot implement a service for pregnant women without looking at the household holistically and taking on board there may be other children in the house and adults that are smokers.

“I was an ITU nurse and seeing some of the impacts of smoking – seeing amputated limbs, seeing chronic obstructive airways disease going on and on – they might die sooner but not until they’ve actually suffered many, many years of disabling conditions.”

The committee will make a decision at its next meeting in July on whether or not to implement a pilot scheme.

(Library image by Sarah Johnson creative commons)

4 Comments

  1. Veronica Jordan says:

    Absolutely absurd CEC thinking of wasting our council tax on this ludicrous idea.

  2. Do I need to have an eye sight test? I cannot believe what I am reading.
    If I was an alcoholic would the Council consider supplying me with more cash so I could spend it on more alcohol?
    I am on the same side as Councillor Murphy, double or treble the tax on cigarettes. If I was a drinker and the Government did that to alcohol I would have a choice, spend more money on drink or eat?

  3. To add priorities those who cannot afford to buy such luxuries as food

  4. Seriously, absolutely ridiculous consideration

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