Nearly 1 million smokers in England could have been helped to quit in the last decade

The Taskforce for Lung Health has today launched its ground-breaking new Data Tracker, which has made data and analysis on lung health publicly available in one place for the first time.

In the period between 2011 and 2019, approximately 1.5 million people quit smoking in England using a stop smoking service.

But new analysis on the Data Tracker shows that an additional 904,430 smokers would have likely used a service to quit if funding for stop smoking services had been maintained.[1]

In recent years government funding for stop smoking services has been slashed and in local authority budgets for the current financial year, 35% of authorities report having a lower budget than the previous year.[2] As a result, opportunities to reach out to smokers and help them quit have been missed.

5.9 million (14.4%) of adults in England currently smoke and smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the UK, and a significant cause of lung disease. People who smoke are around three times as likely to quit when getting support from a specialist service, when compared to going it alone.

One of the recommendations for keeping the nation’s lungs healthy outlined in the five year plan of the Taskforce is the planning and funding of high-quality stop smoking services which are accessible to everyone who wants to quit.

The continuing decline in funding for stop smoking services poses considerable problems for the future lung health of people living in England as smoking costs society more than £11bn a year. Of this, an estimated £2.5bn falls directly on the NHS.[3]

Rachael Hodges, senior policy officer at the British Lung Foundation, one of the members of the Taskforce for Lung Health said:

"Being able to showcase the reality of the cuts to smoking services in this way will hopefully bring home the message that investment in services, public health campaigns and access to stop smoking medication  could have a very real effect on the lung health of thousands – if not millions – of people.

"The new government has the chance to make history and fulfil its promise of ending smoking by 2030. To do this they must prioritise tackling smoking and ensure that everyone who smokes has access to help to quit.”

The data tracker will be showcased at the launch of the One Year On report in parliament today, which will outline the progress the Taskforce has made in working to implement its five year plan to improve the nation’s lung health, since it launched last year.

Alongside the report, the data tracker is now available to the public, providing up-to-date information that is accessible to everyone; including patients, members of the public, policy makers, academics and healthcare professionals.

Lynn Willacy, 51, who was diagnosed with bronchiectasis, a degenerative lung condition in 2008, is a campaigner and patient representative for the NHS Long Term Plan Respiratory Delivery Board. She will be speaking at the launch of the One Year on Report, making the case for implementing the plans of the Taskforce to make a tangible impact on patient experience.

Lynn Willacy, said:

“I was born into a pub in 1968 and growing up in the 70’s, everyone smoked. My parents were both forty a-day smokers and living in a nicotine filled environment, passive smoking is thought to have been a major factor in the cause of my lung condition, as I have never smoked myself.

“People need to feel empowered to quit smoking, so it is vital that stop smoking services are maintained, and that the public has access to all of the information available on lung health, which has been difficult to easily access in the past”.

Since the Taskforce published its report, NHS England have made respiratory a clinical priority in its Long Term Plan for the first time. However, their ambition to improve outcomes for all respiratory patients will not be met without concerted action to tackle the single biggest cause of lung disease.

Dr Noel Baxter, a GP working with the Primary Care Respiratory Society, a member of the Taskforce for Lung Health, said:

“For too long, I have seen first-hand how this life changing, deadly addiction can ruin lives. Having access to stop smoking services is a lifeline for people who are looking to quit but just haven’t had the right opportunities to get the support they so desperately need.

“Meeting the recommendations of the Taskforce could have life changing implications for the millions of smokers in England, and having a lung health Data Tracker available to the public for the first time will hopefully help drive home the need for funding for stop smoking services as well as greater awareness of the implications of lung disease”.

Meeting the recommendations of the Taskforce would have a life changing impact for patients across England. Alongside the statistics relating to smoking, the data tracker also features an interactive heat map illustrating the comparisons between flu vaccination rates across the country, and information about air pollution. The data tracker will be ongoing further development to include data on occupational health, community-based healthcare, pulmonary rehabilitation and diagnosis.

Currently, data on lung health is spread across a range of organisations and there are significant gaps in what is covered. Data gaps showcase how far behind lung health is, compared to other conditions. For instance, there are effective and well-maintained national data sets for cancer which provide a crucial understanding and enable new research to take place – no such registry currently exists for lung disease.

The data tracker will help identify gaps in knowledge and make a case for new research, new processes and new insight, paving the way for a national respiratory data set.

- Ends -

[2] ASH, Many ways forward, 2020.

[3] Department of Health (2017). Towards a smoke-free generation – A tobacco control plan for England.

Notes to editors

Additional interviews, images and information available on request.

For more information, please contact the Taskforce for Lung Health press office on [email protected] / 0207 688 5580.

About the Taskforce for Lung Health

The Taskforce for Lung Health is a unique collaboration between patient representatives, health care professionals and other experts. Over 30 members have a shared vision for lung health; we want to transform the care and treatment for patients and change the mortality rate for lung disease, which has barely improved in over a decade.

Coming together for the first time in 2018, we developed a five-year plan to improve lung health in England. Our report makes vital, realistic recommendations to NHS England and other governing bodies about all aspects of lung health; from prevention and diagnosis right through to end of life care. Together we’re giving people with lung disease a powerful voice. For further information visit www.blf.org.uk/taskforce 

About the Taskforce data tracker

The Taskforce for Lung Health's ground-breaking new data tracker will provide statistical evidence to inform and track the recommendations set out in our five-year plan for lung health.

The first project of its kind, it will use data visualisations, statistics, and stories to illustrate the Taskforce's recommendations for transforming lung health. Not only will it show the context and history of our recommendations, but it will also provide up to date information on progress.

Currently, data on lung health is spread across a range of organisations and there are significant gaps in what is covered. Data gaps showcase how far behind respiratory is, compared to other conditions. Take cancer as an example: today, there are effective and well-maintained national data sets for cancer. These provide a crucial understanding and enable new research to take place.

To this day, lung diseases are still not recorded in this way. As a result, we struggle to answer important questions like 'how many people are there living with a lung disease' and 'how many new people are diagnosed each year?'.

Through the data tracker we'll identify gaps in knowledge and make a case for new research, new processes and new insight, paving the way for a national respiratory data set. We’ll make sure data sets are brought to one central location, vetted, analysed and interpreted so that our audiences can get quick and accurate insights.