'Fewer smokers' using NHS in England to try to quit
The number of people using the NHS in England to stop smoking has fallen for the first time in four years, official figures show.
Health and Social Care Information Centre data showed an 11% fall in the number of people setting a "quit date" last year.
Campaigners said it was a "worrying" development.
However, the overall success rate for finally quitting smoking increased to 52%.
The number of people who set a "quit date" with the NHS Stop Smoking Services stood at 724,000 in 2012-13. But that was a fall from 816,000 in the previous 12 months.
The report said: "This is the first time since 2008-09 that there has been a decline in the number of people setting a quit date, although numbers are still over three times as high as 2002-03 when 234,858 people set a quit date."
The data also showed that 52% of people successfully quit in 2012-13. The figure had been 49% between 2009 and early 2012.
Success rates were highest in the East Midlands (57%) and lowest in the North East (47%).
A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Stopping smoking remains a challenge for many people and although these figures show less people are accessing services we know that smoking rates in England are at their lowest ever 19.5%.
"Over 1000 people are ending up in hospital every day as a result of smoking so we must continue to do all we can to encourage everyone to quit or not to start in the first place."
Betty McBride, of the British Heart Foundation, said: "Smoking kills over 100,000 every year so it is worrying that fewer people are trying to kick this lethal addiction.
"Despite the numbers trying and quitting falling, the success rate of people quitting with NHS support is increasing. It's therefore vital we see continued investment in smoking cessation services."
Dr Penny Woods, the chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "The figures show that we must not become complacent and fool ourselves into believing we are doing enough to combat the damage that smoking does to our nation's health.
"If we want to continue reducing the number of people who quit smoking each year in the UK, the government must help build on the benefits of smoking cessation services and stop people from taking up smoking in the first place.
"This can be done by introducing legislation such as compulsory standardised packaging for tobacco products and a ban on smoking in cars when children are present".