COUNCILLORS are to discuss cutting Sandwell’s anti-smoking programme by £360,000 because the number of smokers in the borough has fallen.

Members of the cabinet will discuss plans to reduce the current service at its meeting next week.

A report has recommended reducing the existing budget from £810,000 a year to £450,000.

The reduction comes as the percentage of smokers in Sandwell has fallen from nearly 23 per cent to 19 per cent of adults in five years.

Council officers have said the service needs ‘correct sizing’ to reflect the needs of smokers.

It also points to the popularity of electronic cigarettes and easier access to information as also helping smokers quit by themselves.

Councillor Elaine Costigan, cabinet member for public health and protection, said smoking cessation is still a key priority for Sandwell.

“Our budgets are under pressure due to the effects of government cuts but our expenditure on our work in this area will actually be similar to previous years because there has been under-spending in the past.

“The reduced budget for our stop smoking service will more closely reflect our previous spending on smoking cessation in Sandwell.

“Although general smoking prevalence has decreased nationally over time – a trend which has also been reflected in Sandwell, 19 per cent of the adult population are smokers compared to the England average of 15.5 per cent.

“The level of smoking in Sandwell remains significantly higher than the regional and national averages.”

She added: “Our new budget will be a better fit for this service, which will continue to target high prevalence of smoking in ‘hard to reach’ groups.

“We are also developing innovative ways of delivering stop smoking services through a self-help digital system and helping smokers to access services locally.”

The cabinet will discuss the report at its meeting on Wednesday (July 25).