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Quick facts: Smoking cessation in hospital

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Find out the facts behind the biggest avoidable cause of inequalities in health

  • A number of diseases are caused by smoking including heart disease, cancers and respiratory diseases
  • The burden of disease has financial implications for the NHS and wider society
  • Smoking is responsible for over 460,000 hospital admissions in England each year
  • It is the biggest avoidable cause of inequalities in health
  • Smoking in pregnancy causes up to 5,000 miscarriages and stillbirths each year, and increases the risk of premature birth and low birthweight
  • In children, secondhand smoke causes sudden infant death syndrome and middle ear disease, and exacerbates asthma
  • One in five of the general population smokes, this figure rises to one in three among people with longstanding mental illness and to 70% of people in psychiatric units

A Cochrane review confirmed the positive impact of implementing stop-smoking services for inpatients. This systematic review found that stop-smoking programmes aimed at inpatients with support for at least one month after discharge are effective, regardless of admitting diagnosis (Rigotti et al, 2008).

Patients who remain smoke free during a stay in hospital will heal more quickly and are less likely to be readmitted. In addition, patients are more receptive to smoking-cessation support while in hospital, and are often more motivated to stop smoking following admission (Department of Health, 2009).


NICE guidance

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance on Smoking Cessation: Acute, Maternity and Mental Health Services was published in 2013



  • · NHS hospitals should help all patients who smoke to stop before and during a hospital stay as well as ideally remaining smoke free after their hospital treatment
  • · Patients who smoke should be identified
  • · Offering support to stop smoking should be part of routine practice
  • · Clinical staff should feel this is part of their duty of care
  • · NHS hospitals should provide everyone with verbal and written information about the hospital’s smoke-free policy before their appointment, procedure or hospital stay. This should include the short and long-term benefits of stopping smoking and details of the support available.
  • · NHS hospitals should provide intensive support for people using secondary care services, and discussions about past and current smoking behaviour should be included in a personal stop-smoking plan
  • · Patients should have access to licensed nicotine-containing products, such as nicotine replacement therapy patches or gum, or other pharmacotherapies.

Adapted from Gilbert L, McIlvar M (2014) Hospitals’ duty of care in smoking cessation. Nursing Times; 110: 4, 22-24.


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