THE number of calls made to Wales' specialist smoking cessation service by smokers wishing to quit, almost doubled in three years.

Stop Smoking Wales received close to 28,000 calls during August 2011-March 2012, after a new telephone system was installed, compared to around 14,000 in 2008/09.

And increasing numbers of people are seeking help to kick the habit, according to the service's annual report.

Last year, 15,781 people were scheduled an appointment with Stop Smoking Wales.

More than 10,000 smokers attended its behavioural support programme, and 7,061 became what the organisation calls ‘treated smokers’.

Four of Gwent's five council areas are in the top 10 out of 22 in Wales in terms of the percentage of population who are smokers.

Blaenau Gwent (28 per cent) has the highest percentage in Wales, with Torfaen (26 per cent) equal third, Newport (25 per cent) seventh, and Caerphilly (24 per cent) equal eighth. Monmouthshire by contrast, with 19 per cent, has the lowest percentage of smokers.

By comparison with other areas, Gwent has a low percentage (less than 1.1 per cent) of its smoking population that has been treated by Stop Smoking Wales.

The average for a Welsh local authority areas is 1.3 per cent for smokers treated by Stop Smoking Wales, though this rate can ranges from 0.3 per cent to 2.5 per cent, and public health experts are looking at why there is such a discrepancy.

Across Gwent's five council areas last year, 2,539 people were scheduled an appointment with Stop Smoking Wales.

The organisation offers a six-week support programme for those wishing to quit, a process during which smokers are given a quit date, and provided with advice on treatments available.

For the two years to March 2012, 37.2 per cent of the 603 smokers in the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area followed up a year after their quit date reported having fully given up. This was the third highest rate of Wales' seven health board areas.