Published: 19/08/2004, Volume II4, No. 5919 Page 21

HSJ reports that 'over 200,000 people gave up smoking after seeking help from the NHS' (news, page 6, 15 July). This was just as inaccurate and misleading as Brent primary care trust's claim of a 67 per cent quit rate for people using smoking-cessation services (news, page 5, 5 August).

Less than 60,000 of these selfreported two to four-week quitters have stopped for good.

We waste a lot of effort collecting these dubious statistics.

Ministers love them. Journalists misquote them. Our star-ratings depend on them.

It will take 13 years for the best NHS cessation services to achieve the 4 per cent drop in smoking prevalence expected after a ban on smoking in work and public places.

We need to think clearly and speak honestly if we want effective policy and high public credibility. Which is why I took Brent to the Advertising Standards Authority, as reported in HSJ's 5 August story.

Stephen J Nickless GP Kilburn, north-west London