NHS gives out patches to help smokers quit

Free nicotine patches are to be offered on the NHS as part of a major drive to help smokers quit their habit in the new year.

Coupons giving smokers a week's free trial of the patches will be added to "Quit Kits" for the first time, the Department of Health announced.

The kits, which also contain items such as calming audio downloads and "health and wealth" wheels showing the benefits of giving up, will be available at participating pharmacies across the country.

The Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) patches work by gradually releasing nicotine into the bloodstream without the cancer-causing substances found in cigarettes.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Smoking costs the NHS billions every year and can cost a 20-a-day smoker around 2,000 a year, so giving smokers help to quit not only improves their health, but saves them and the NHS money."

From January 1, the kits will be at Co-operative and Whitworth pharmacies and later at Sainsbury's, Tesco and Manichem pharmacies, followed by Superdrug and a range of independent pharmacies in February and March.