FUNDING of up to £23m has been approved for a new smoking cessation and prevention service to support the national campaign for a smoke-free generation.

Smokefree Hampshire currently supports 3,500 smokers to quit each year.

Hampshire County Council has approved the £23m “ringfenced” expenditure for a new service to stop and prevent smoking, which will start running in April 2025 and last seven years.

In October 2023, the Government announced new ringfenced funding to local authorities, the Local Stop Smoking Services and Support Grant.

In Hampshire, smoking cessation and prevention services are funded through the public health grant and would be additionally funded by the Local Stop Smoking Services and Support Grant, both of which are ringfenced for this specific proposal.

Between April 2024 and April 2029, the county council will receive £1,381,823 annually for this new government grant.

Chair of the health and adult social care select committee, Cllr Bill Withers, said: “This is a very important subject. We obviously made great measures during Covid-19, particularly with the turning in maternity services, where pregnant women reduced smoking by 50 per cent. Then, the other 50 per cent went on to vape as a measured step to reduce smoking.

“Although 23 million seems like a lot of money over seven years, the cost of the NHS, public health, and social care is far from that amount of money, so anything we can do to challenge smoking from 10 per cent down is very important. I fully endorse it.”

Cllr Ann Briggs said: “I fully endorse it. It is an awful lot of money, but having grown up in a society where everyone smoked, parents and grandparents, I think we’re making amazing progress, and if we can have zero smoking in a few years, it’s for the benefit of all.

"It worries me about the young people around our schools where you see them all smoking. So I think a lot of the resources must be put into our schools. ”

The new service will allow the county council to procure a specialist service to expand the smoking cessation offer, raise awareness of the specialist service through marketing campaigns, deliver smoking prevention and cessation training for all health, care and wider workforce, and target localities and population groups to reduce smoking rates further.

The service will also continue to support the use of electronic cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, which continues to be the single most preventable cause of ill health and premature death and the main driver of health inequalities in Hampshire.

Smoking is a major risk factor for many diseases, such as lung cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease. It is also strongly linked with cancers in other organs, including the lip, mouth, throat, bladder, kidney, stomach, liver, and cervix.

In 2022, it was estimated that 10.5 per cent of the adult residents of Hampshire smoked, ranging from 5.5 per cent in Winchester to 18.4 per cent in Rushmoor.

Data suggests that smoking could cost the Hampshire economy £1.1bn each year, a figure that is broken down into losses in economic productivity (£682m), social care costs (£329m), healthcare costs (£41m) and fire costs (£5m).

The Hampshire Tobacco Control Strategy states that 4,522 residents die, and 8,631 residents are admitted to hospital each year because of smoking.