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CITY LEADS WAY IN STUBBING OUT CIGS; 50 per cent more smokers packing up habit than last year.

Byline: Warren Manger

COVENTRY'S full of quitters.

So much so that NHS targets to get people to stop smoking have been met three months ahead of schedule.

The city is now on track to help nearly 3,000 smokers kick the habit during this financial year.

That is 50 per cent more than during 2009/10 - the last year before tariffs were introduced.

But there is a catch. Because firms and charities now earn money for every smoker that quits, it means the programme is set to run a staggering pounds 400,000 over budget by April.

City health trust NHS Coventry insists that is money well spent.

A spokeswoman said: "It has long been accepted that stopping smoking is just about the most cost-effective health intervention there is.

"While we like to balance the budget, we are very pleased to support the work our providers undertake. If that means increasing the budget we shall endeavour to do so, if it means people live longer, healthier, and more productive lives."

She said helping smokers to quit would save more money long term as fewer people suffered lung and heart disease, strokes and other illnesses.

Smoking kills an estimated 1,200 people in Coventry and Warwickshire each year. It is the region's biggest cause of premature death and therefore a key public health issue.

Yet historically the city has consistently failed to hit its targets for helping smokers to quit.

So Coventry became one of the first places in the country to launch smoking tariffs in April 2010.

Nine doctors surgeries, dentists, companies and charities signed up to run stop smoking services.

And after a slow start the tariff appears to be a huge success.

This year's target was low - just 1,991 quitters - because it was calculated based on the city's poor performance in 2009/10.

Stop smoking services were on target to hit this figure in December, though officialfigures won't conf irm that until next month.

New Year's resolutions normally see a surge of quitters between January and March, so bosses are aiming for nearly 3,000 quitters by April. That means they will smash their pounds 1million stop smoking budget, but they say they had planned for this and have contingency cash ready to meet the overspend.

The trust spokeswoman said: "Already the [tariff] programme is showing a really positive impact." She said all the stop smoking services were contributing to this success, but there were also other reasons for smokers deciding to quit, such as changes to the smoking laws and tobacco cont rol.

Smokers are four times more likely to quit with NHS help.

For more details call 0800 051 1310.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 9, 2012
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