There is continuing evidence that councils are failing to spend their huge Public Health budgets in practical ways. The funds meant for smoking cessation have become less and less effective with the rise of e-cigarettes – or vaping – as a preferred solution by those seeking to quit.
Some councils have taken the sensible decision to review their priorities accordingly. For instance, Smoke Free South West, which was funded by a number of councils, has been closed due to the poor value for money provided. This more rigorous approach was defended by the Local Government Association earlier this year which said:
“Since the advent of e-cigarettes and campaigns such as Stoptober, we have seen the number of users of smoking cessation services fall, while the population of smokers left is now more challenging to get to quit.
“This means councils are re-evaluating what they do on tobacco control and how to be more effective.
“Councils remain committed to helping smokers quit, however they face significant cuts to public health budgets this year, and spending large volumes of money on a service people are not using will fast undermine the cost effectiveness of providing it.”
The Health and Social Care Information Centre statistics confirm a sustained decline in the number of people using public sector stop smoking services. Since the fourth quarter of 2010/11 usage has fallen by 51 per cent.
So personal responsibility and market innovation have triumphed over the nanny state.
However, there are still concerns about how anti-smoking funds are being spent. Rather than on useful help for those who want to quit, money has been diverted into political lobbying for anti-libertarian causes. For instance, for plain packaging or ever higher taxation. It is disappointing that Bob Blackman, an otherwise admirable Conservative MP has backed the nannying demands of ASH on this matter.
The best way to help those who want to quit smoking is not through Councils wasting more money on unwanted public health services. It is through vaping. The greatest threat to this comes from EU regulation – as Matt Ridley has warned. If you want more people to give up, the best thing is to Vote Leave on June 23rd.