Aims: To assess factors associated with the use of smoking cessation aids among smokers trying to quit in a country where these aids are widely available and free or cheap to access.
Design: Cross-sectional household survey, the 'Smoking Toolkit Study'.
Participants: A total of 3767 respondents who smoked and made at least one serious quit attempt in the past 12 months were interviewed from November 2006 to April 2008.
Measurements: We analysed differences across socio-demographic and smoking characteristics in the use of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) over the counter or on prescription, bupropion, varenicline, telephone support and the National Health Service Stop Smoking Service (NHS-SSS) which combines behavioural support with medication.
Findings: More than half of smokers trying to quit (51.2%) had used any kind of treatment; 48.4% had used some form of medication but only 6.2% had used the NHS-SSS. The use of some form of smoking cessation treatment was higher in female than in male smokers [odds ratio (OR): 1.24, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.08, 1.43] and increased with age (OR: 1.19, 95% CI: 1.14,1.25) and cigarettes smoked per day (OR = 1.05, 95% CI = 1.04,1.06). There was no association with social grade. Smokers who planned their quit attempt were more likely to have used all types of smoking cessation treatments, except for telephone support.
Conclusions: In England, half of all attempts to quit smoking are aided by some form of pharmacological or behavioural treatment. However, the use of the most effective treatment option (the NHS-SSS) is low, despite it being free of charge. Factors associated with an increased use of aids to cessation were female sex, older age, more cigarettes smoked per day and planning a quit attempt. Research is needed into how to increase utilization rates, particularly among males and younger smokers.