GPs urged to widen NRT prescribing

GPs in England have been urged to prescribe NRT, including patches and gums, to smokers to lower their exposure to tobacco even if they are not interested in quitting fully.

NICE wants GPs to help patients smoke less even if they can't quit entirely
NICE wants GPs to help patients smoke less even if they can't quit entirely

NICE has called on health professionals to offer nicotine-containing products to reduce harm in dependent smokers who cannot quit in one attempt.

New public health guidance targets patients who are not ready or unable to give up nicotine, although GPs should continue to encourage smokers to quit in one attempt.

Patients will be advised to visit their GP to obtain nicotine products and support, while health organisations are urged to do more to raise awareness of the harm caused by smoking.

Despite progress in reducing the numbers of smokers in recent years, 79,000 people die due to tobacco use in England each year, while related illnesses cost the NHS £2.7bn.

NICE said the guidance was the first in the world to advise nicotine products to help people smoke less.

It forms part of a new national drive to cut smoking-related deaths and illness. It comes after Public Health England launched a campaign last week to increase awareness of the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Birmingham GP Professor Paul Aveyard of the University of Oxford, who helped develop the guidance, said: 'Giving up smoking is one of the hardest things a smoker will ever do. Some may not be ready to give up smoking in one step, but half of all smokers say that they want to cut down.

'Advisors should reassure people that licensed nicotine-containing products are a safe and effective way of reducing the harm from cigarettes, and that NRT products have been shown in trials to be safe for at least 5 years’ use.'

He said GPs and others should advise patients seeking to quit that 'there are no circumstances when it is safer to smoke than to use licensed nicotine-containing products'.

CMO Professor Dame Sally Davies, said using safer sources of nicotine was a 'much better' option for smokers who aren't able or ready to give up.

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