“It was 10 times easier than I thought”: Tameside is the leading Greater Manchester borough for quitting smoking

Tameside has the highest number of people who successfully quit smoking in Greater Manchester, with two thirds of people who set a quit date between April and December 2023 permanently stopping, according to NHS data.

Out of 622 people in Tameside who set a quit date, 415 – two thirds – self-reported as having successfully quit smoking. The North-West regional average was 52.97%, and the English national average was 53.85%.

These figures are taken from recently released data from NHS Digital, which shows the variation of success across England of people trying to kick the habit. 

The report is based on people who set a quit date using NHS Stop Smoking Services in England, and who had successfully quit at the four-week follow-up. Not all clients were successfully followed up.

A successful quitter (self-reported) is counted as having successfully quit smoking at the four week follow-up if they say they have not smoked since two weeks after the quit date.

There is only data for nine of the 10 boroughs, with no data in the report for Bolton. 

Tameside had especially impressive figures – again the highest rates in Greater Manchester – in the age groups of 60 and over, and 35-44, with figures of 73.10% and 68.40%, respectively.

Louise Hague, aged 52, lives in Stalybridge, Tameside, and first took up smoking at the age of 10 – but she gave up smoking in October 2023 with the assistance of the council’s free Be Well Tameside service which provides free health and wellbeing support services. 

She had previously tried to quit several years earlier after contracting pneumonia in December 2019, but said that the service from her GP wasn’t as good as Be Well Tameside. 

Louise said: “The lady I dealt with was with me from start to finish, she rang me every fortnight, and she’d send my patches to my nearest chemist.

“She didn’t pressurise, she was very laid back, and I think you need people like that.

“It was more personal: if she went on holiday she’d tell you, she’d squeeze you in somewhere, she’d never skip. She was there every step of the way.”

Louise received 24-hour patches, which made a huge difference compared to the eight-hour patches she received through her GP. 

She said: “I felt the lady understood, and she wouldn’t have gone mad if I’d had one.

“It was 10 times easier than I thought, and I can tell a massive difference in my health.

“You just need that encouragement, I suppose. Like a little kid at primary school – you need that pat on the back.”

Louise puts aside the money she would have spent on cigarettes into a holiday fund, and plans to visit New York with her partner, having already saved up more than £2,000. 

Be Well Tameside offers support both face-to-face and remotely, a factor which Councillor Eleanor Wills, Executive Member for Population Health and Well-being in Tameside, thinks is the reason behind the borough’s success. 

“It’s really flexible, it’s bespoke to the individual and you can face-to-face, or you can have support over the phone,” she said. 

“I think one of the things that we’re really good at is adapting – and that’s what we’ve done with this service throughout the years with this service – we’ve got to continue  to adapt to the needs of individuals.

“We’ve been bringing things to the people, rather than expecting people to prioritise their own health needs and proactively seek it – understanding that each town is different, with differing needs and tendencies and trying to adapt to those needs.”

Councillor Wills said that being aware of differing demographics is very important, and that Tameside has a historically intrinsic link with smoking. 

“We used to have a factory in Tameside where they manufactured cigarettes, so it’s very endemic in terms of our tendency for smoking.

“People used to receive uplift in their pay or bonuses in terms of cigarettes and tobacco, so it’s quite generational and has been a real thing for us to look at the culture of that and how we change it.”

Tameside also has a demographic heavily populated by manual workers, and Councillor Wills said the culture of smoking within the profession is just one of the communities the council have tried to influence with their campaigns. 

She said their campaigns try to provide emphasis on the huge cost of the habit. 

“We’re not hugely wealthy in Tameside and we’re spending a huge amount of money on tobacco – so making people aware of how much they’re spending and what that looks like year on year out.

Councillor Wills shared that her mother managed to quit smoking, and what that change meant to their family is reason enough for her to know the difference the council is making.  

“I used to listen to my mum coughing every morning and that went away, so for me the reward is on a personal level,” she said. 

The North West local authority which had the best rate of successful quitters was Warrington, where more than three quarters (77.6%) of those who tried to quit managed to do so. 

No data was collected for Cheshire East, Cumberland, and Westmorland and Furness.

Wigan was another high contender within Greater Manchester, with the most successful quitters aged 45-59 with 64.0%, and 18-34 at 63.1%.

In Trafford, meanwhile, only 16.4% of smokers permanently stopped, according to the data – the lowest rate in the city-region. 

Out of 458 people who set a quit date within the Trafford borough, only 75 people self-reported as having successfully quit.

Moreover, Trafford consistently showed the lowest outcomes of all Greater Manchester boroughs within the separate age divisions of 18-34, 35-44, 45-59, and 60 and over. 

As a spokesperson for Trafford Council noted, however, the rate of smoking in Trafford is lower to begin with, at just 8%, and they have several plans in place to increase the number of residents who are giving up. 

The spokesperson added that stopping people smoking is one of their key health priorities.

They said: “We have identified higher rates in specific groups and have planned a different model of service to ensure the right support reaches the right people.

In April 2024, the Council awarded grants to voluntary sector groups to target priority groups, including specific less well-off areas, and projects to support older people, carers, people from ethnically diverse communities, care leavers and people who are LGBTQ+.

“We are increasing stop-smoking provision through our community pharmacies and are supporting the Government’s Swap to Stop scheme to enable the distribution of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid.”

The Council has commissioned BlueSCI, a mental health community interest company, and Early Break, a substance misuse provider, and are also working to support smokers in social housing.  

They said: “Further plans include targeted smoking cessation support to Gypsy Roma Traveller communities, adults with substance misuse issues, those in the criminal justice service, people who are homeless and housebound older people. 

Feature Image: Photo by Julia Engel on Unsplash

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