Proposed cuts to smoking services have been slated as a “false economy” by a Harrow MP.
As part of Harrow Council’s public consultation on the budget for the 2017-18 financial year, plans have been put forward to slash the service, which has helped 1,751 people successfully quit smoking since April 2013.
It is estimated that the cuts will lead to savings of around £279,000.
Bob Blackman, Conservative MP for Harrow East, said Harrow Council should “carefully consider the consequences of its actions” before going ahead with the move.
“Closing these services, which help thousands of smokers in Harrow to quit successfully every year, would be a false economy for the local authority and the NHS,” he argued.
“Quitting is difficult. Smokers need and deserve help and the stop smoking services increase their chances of success fourfold. Stop smoking services cost next to nothing compared to treating the cancers, heart and respiratory diseases which strike down smokers.
“Also, it’s not just smokers who are harmed; exposure to tobacco smoke is a leading cause of stillbirth and cot death.”
Despite the council admitting that smoking accounts for more premature deaths across the UK than alcoholism, obesity and road traffic accidents combined, it is proposing to cut all five of its existing smoking cessation programmes, including work to tackle the proliferation of illegal tobacco in the borough.
As a result, people who want to stop smoking would be required to find help elsewhere, including through GPs who, if willing, are able to provide advice, support and prescriptions.
Help can also be sought at pharmacies and through national, charitable or commercial stop smoking resources.
Four people are facing redundancy as a result of the proposed cuts. The posts they currently occupy are two smoking cessation practitioners, one as-and-when smoking cessation practitioner, and one coordinator.
Central government has reduced funding to councils in recent years, meaning Harrow Council will have £83 million less to spend in 2018 compared to 2014.
According to the council, the consultation presents “one of our proposals to make savings and/or earn revenue in Harrow Council services” in future years.
The council’s Smoking Cessation Service provides support for people who want to stop smoking, and for organisations that help people stop smoking.
The service is accredited by the National Centre for Smoking Cessation Training, using “the most effective evidence-based methods to help Harrow residents stop smoking”.
Members of the public have until November 3 to register their opposition or support for the plans.