THE number of people trying to give up smoking in Scotland has fallen, prompting demands to improve support for those wanting to stub out cigarettes for good.

According to the latest NHS Stop Smoking Services Scotland report, which includes data between April 2021 and March 2022, there were 31,359 people north of the Border attempting to quit smoking.

This figure is about 17,000 fewer than the 48,749 smokers who tried to end their habit between 2019 and 2020. The findings, released by Public Health Scotland yesterday, also mark the 10th consecutive year that the number of people quitting smoking has decreased.

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Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) Scotland, a charity which aims to reduce the harm caused by tobacco, said with attempts to quit smoking dropping by more than one-third compared to the previous year, the Scottish Government needs to boost specialist cessation services for the estimated 730,000 Scots who smoke.

The charity claimed smoking causes 100,000 hospitalisations and 9000 deaths in Scotland each year and the 2034 target for the country to be tobacco-free will be missed by an estimated 16 years if smoking levels continue as they are.

Chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “It is alarming that these latest figures show stop smoking attempts with NHS support have fallen for the 10th consecutive year and by almost 75% since the peak of 121,385 attempts in 2011-12.

“At a time when the health service is under considerable pressure and smoking continues to be the biggest preventable cause of illness and death, swift action is required by the Scottish Government and health boards to ensure NHS Quit Your Way services are promoted and better resourced to reach more of the two-thirds of Scots who smoke and want to quit.

“Quit Your Way services, which provide specialist person-centred smoking cessation support, must be boosted as a matter of urgency to continue their critical role helping people who have the highest smoking rates, such as those living in our most deprived communities, and experiencing mental health problems, to leave tobacco behind.”

Ash Scotland research showed smoking prevalence for people experiencing mental health problems in Scotland’s poorest communities is between 40%-50%, comparable to the country’s general population smoking rates of the mid-1970s.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “A range of world-leading tobacco control measures have been introduced in Scotland, which are steadily reducing the proportion of people smoking according to the Scottish Health Survey.

“While smoking rates have dropped and fewer people are starting to smoke, the pandemic has seen a decline in the number of people quitting. We are undertaking a rapid review of smoking cessation services, the conclusions of which will inform our refreshed Tobacco Action Plan.

“We will consider a range of interventions as part of the Tobacco Action Plan including improved support for people who want to quit.

“The Scottish Government is determined to improve health and reduce inequalities. Our goal is a tobacco-free generation of Scots by 2034.”

People aiming to give up smoking can call Quit Your Way’s free helpline on 0800 84 84 84 or create a quit plan at