CHESHIRE East is considering paying people hundreds of pounds to quit smoking.

According to the council, approximately 10.5 per cent of people in the borough and 10.8 per cent of pregnant women smoke tobacco.

The number of people stubbing out the habit is declining so the authority is now considering paying them to quit.

A report due to be considered at Monday’s meeting of the adults and health committee states: “There is robust evidence that financial incentives increase smoking quit rates. Evidence shows that people are around 50 per cent more likely to quit with incentives; furthermore, in pregnant women specifically, the likelihood of quitting is doubled.”

The council is considering introducing a pilot scheme whereby the general population would be offered up to £200 to quit and pregnant women, £400.

The report states: “The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimates that for every £1 invested in smoking cessation, £10 is saved in future health care costs.”

Smokers pay a high price for their habit – not just in terms of health risks but also financially.

Someone smoking five cigarettes a day pays £1,128 over a year; that cost rises to £2,257 for 10 a day and £4,515 for someone smoking 20 a day.

These figures are based on the average price of a pack of 20 cigarettes at three major supermarkets this month.

The report states smoking rates in Cheshire East are similar to the national average overall but are highly variable across the borough.

Several wards in the Crewe and Macclesfield area have significantly higher than average rates of young smokers and deaths from respiratory diseases.

If  the council does introduce a pilot scheme, one proposal is that the £200 would be paid via three instalments to most people and the £400 via five instalments for pregnant women.

During this time those participating in the scheme would have to take exhaled carbon monoxide tests to confirm quitting status.

According to the report a budget of £116,500 is proposed - £95,000 from the ring-fenced public health grant and £21,500 from the Champs Public Health Collaborative.

The committee is being asked to discuss the proposal at Monday’s (May 30) meeting and agree that a formal decision report be brought to its next meeting in July on whether this, or an alternative option, should go ahead.