Provide smoking cessation “opt-out” service

PATIENTS should be offered smoking cessation treatment automatically, unless they opt out, according to a new report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

Many smokers are offered help with quitting by the NHS under the present system, but the College has said an opt-out system could double uptake levels and should become the default approach.

The move is among a raft of measures proposed by the College to end tobacco smoking in the UK.

Smoking and Health 2021: a coming of age for tobacco control reviews the UK’s progress in reducing smoking and sets out a number of recommendations for the UK’s forthcoming National Tobacco Control Plan.

The new report is published almost 60 years after the College’s first ever tobacco report, Smoking and health, in 1962. Since then, UK smoking levels have fallen by 76 per cent. But the RCP is pushing to eradicate smoking, which remains a major cause of death and disease in the UK, killing 94,000 people in 2020.

Its new report calls for comprehensive rather than "piecemeal" action, including measures such as tough taxation, a media ban on tobacco advertising, a rise in the legal smoking age and high-profile public health campaigns.

Dr Nick Hopkinson, RCP Tobacco Advisory Group member, said: "Support to quit smoking is one of the most effective and highest value treatments that the healthcare system can deliver, but many smokers are missing out on this.

"Developing a universal offer through the NHS so that every smoker receives this support, unless they actively opt out, has to be a priority."