Public Release: 

Could exercise help smokers who want to reduce consumption but not quit?

University of Plymouth

Researchers from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PUPSMD) will lead a national study with £1.8 million of funding from the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme (NIHR HTA) to test the effectiveness of new support to help smokers who want to reduce but not quit.

According to statistics from ASH, around 10 million adults in the UK smoke. Smoking prevalence has declined, yet the habit still claims approximately 100,000 lives each year. ASH claims that around two-thirds of current smokers want to reduce smoking but apart from e-cigarettes little support is available to help them - even though those who reduce are more likely to make a quit attempt.

A recent pilot study which recruited Plymouth smokers showed preliminary evidence that providing personal Health Trainer support to reduce cigarette consumption and increase physical exercise, may reduce smoking rates, encourage more quit attempts and increase short-term abstinence.

This new study aims to provide compelling evidence to support the pilot study and result in data which will bring this approach to future updated guidelines on the support which should be provided to reduce smoking.

The study will recruit 900 people who currently smoke and who wish to reduce their cigarette consumption but who may have no immediate plan to quit. The volunteers will be recruited from four cities - Plymouth, Oxford, Nottingham and London.

Half of the volunteers will receive existing advice on reducing smoking and where to get further support, while the others will receive up to eight face-to-face or phone contacts with a Health Trainer for up to eight weeks with support to reduce smoking and increase physical activity as chosen by the smoker.

After completing an initial assessment, all participants will be asked to complete various surveys and measures after three and eight months.

If they report that they are no longer smoking at three and eight months, they will be invited to attend a meeting with a researcher who will confirm their abstinence using a test to measure air levels of carbon monoxide in their breath.

If participants are still not smoking at eight months they will be followed up after 15 months.

The aim of the study is to investigate whether the Health Trainer support is better at helping people to quit smoking for longer, compared with existing support.

As well as measuring effectiveness for the quitting smoker, the research team will also estimate costs and predict long-term health and social care savings that the programme may produce.

The study will start in February 2017, with recruitment from October 2017 to December 2018. Its findings will be reported in September 2020.

Professor Adrian Taylor, Chair in Health Service Research at PUPSMD, leads the study. He said: "Our pilot study showed that the physical activity and smoking reduction intervention had apparent benefits to those not initially wishing to quit but who did wish to reduce smoking. This recent funding will allow us to build on those findings and to produce evidence that the method can not only help individuals, but also produce savings for health and social care too. Evidence such as this can be used by health policymakers in future stop smoking guidelines."

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This study has been funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme and is also supported by the NIHR Collaboration for Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC). It is a collaborative project between Plymouth University, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, St George's University of London, Oxford University, Nottingham University, Exeter University, and Plymouth City Council.

About Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry

Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PUPSMD http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/peninsula) focuses on medical, dental and biomedical education and research. In education it takes the lead in using innovative, evidence-based learning techniques which nurture future doctors, dentists and biomedical scientists who are clinically excellent, have immense empathy for those in their care, and who are well-prepared for roles in an ever-changing health service. Research covers the areas of clinical neurosciences; cancer; inflammation, infection and immunity; diagnostics; genomics; stratification; prevention; personalised integrated care; and novel health technologies. The Research Excellence Framework 2014 ranked the organisation top in the UK for the quality of its research outputs. It is one of the lead academic partners in the Alzheimer's Research UK South West Research Network, and one of four Research Centres of Excellence for charity Brain Tumour Research. PU PSMD holds the Athena SWAN Bronze Award. The awards recognise institutional and departmental commitment to advancing women's careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine/dentistry in Higher Education and Research. The Plymouth University 'Shape the Future' Campaign is a strategic fundraising initiative to transform lives and make a real and lasting difference to our global society. It supports a number of projects including the Derriford Research Facility and Brain Tumour Research at Plymouth University. If you would like to support the Campaign you can find out more by visiting http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/campaign

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The NIHR is the research arm of the NHS. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government's strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website.

The National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (NIHR CLAHRC SWP/PenCLAHRC) aims to bring together local universities and their surrounding NHS organisations to test new treatments and new ways of working in specific clinical areas, to see if they are effective and appropriate for everyday use in the health service. Where potential improvements are identified PenCLAHRC helps NHS staff to incorporate them into their everyday working practices, so that patients across the local community receive a better standard of healthcare.

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