NHS stop smoking services help you quit

Picture of a cigarette butt bin
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Walter Brown / Thinkstock

Local stop smoking services are free, friendly and can massively boost your chances of quitting for good.

These services staffed by expert advisers provide a range of proven methods to help you quit.

They'll give you accurate information and advice, as well as professional support, during the first few months you stop smoking. 

They also make it easy and affordable for you to get stop smoking treatments, such as:

  • Varenicline (Champix)
  • Bupropion (Zyban)
  • nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches and gum

One-to-one and group stop smoking sessions

You'll normally be offered a one-to-one appointment with an adviser, but many areas also offer group and drop-in services as well.

Depending on where you live, the venue could be a local GP surgery, pharmacy, high-street shop, or even a mobile bus clinic.

Jennifer Percival, who trains stop smoking advisers, says that using both treatment and specialist support is proven to give you the best chance of stopping smoking.

"The majority of people who see an adviser will get through the first month after quitting without smoking a cigarette.

"Overall, you're up to 4 times more likely to stop smoking for good if you use a combination of stop smoking treatment and receive support from an NHS Stop Smoking Service." she says.

How to contact a stop smoking adviser

Your GP can refer you, or you can phone your local stop smoking service to make an appointment with an adviser.

In England

In Scotland

In Wales

In Northern Ireland

What happens at the first stop smoking session?

At your first meeting with an adviser, you'll talk about why you smoke and why you want to quit, as well as any attempts you've made to quit in the past. You'll also be able to decide on a quit date.

You'll be offered a breath test, which shows the level of carbon monoxide – a poisonous gas in cigarette smoke – in your body. 

"You don't need to be sure you want to quit or have a quit plan in mind before this meeting," says Jennifer.

"You can use the time to talk your situation through with the adviser without making a commitment. If you do decide to quit, the adviser can help you form an action plan and set a quit date, usually in a week or so."

Stop smoking aids

At your first session, you'll also discuss NHS-endorsed stop smoking treatments available to help you.

These are nicotine replacement products (including patches, gum, lozenges, inhalators and mouth and nasal sprays) and the stop smoking tablets Champix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion).

"No one is forced to use treatment," says Jennifer, "but we'll encourage it because the results are better. We can help you decide which type of treatment is right for you and how to use it.

"In some cases, we can directly supply you with the treatment before you leave, or we can arrange for you to receive a prescription or a voucher for it.

"In the case of nicotine replacement therapy, it often works out at least a third cheaper than buying it from a pharmacy."

There's evidence that e-cigarettes can help people stop smoking. E-cigarettes aren't currently available as medicines so they can't be supplied by stop smoking services or prescribed on the NHS.

But if you want to use an e-cigarette to help you quit, you can still get advice and support from a stop smoking adviser to give you the best chance of success.

Read more about using e-cigarettes to stop smoking.

Jennifer points out that NHS stop smoking advisers only provide evidence-based support. "We won't suggest or recommend hypnosis or acupuncture as there's not enough evidence they help you stop smoking."

Preventing relapse

As a general rule, you'll have weekly face-to-face or phone contact with your adviser for the first 4 weeks after you quit smoking, then less frequently for a further 8 weeks.

At each meeting, you'll receive a supply of (or prescription for) a stop smoking treatment if you're using it, and have your carbon monoxide level measured.

You'll have an emergency number for out-of-hours times to help you cope with cravings and avoid lighting up if you're struggling.

"Going on the 12-week programme requires you to commit to not having a single puff of a cigarette," says Jennifer.

"Measuring carbon monoxide levels isn't about checking up on you. It's more to motivate you to stay smoke-free by showing how your body is already recovering."

Stop smoking advisers can also help you identify difficult situations when there may be a strong temptation to relapse and start smoking.

And they can help you come up with ways to cope with or avoid these situations.

"If you do relapse, we won't judge or nag you or take it personally. We're a friendly face that understands how difficult it is to quit, and we'll help you get back on track to becoming a non-smoker," says Jennifer.

Get more advice on what to do if you relapse after quitting.

Further information

Page last reviewed: 25/10/2018
Next review due: 25/10/2021