More than two in five people in Dorset on a programme to quit smoking managed to kick the habit, new figures reveal.

NHS Digital data shows 733 people on the NHS Stop Smoking Service in the area set a date to quit between April and December last year.

At follow-up meetings held a month later, 322 said they had given up – 44%.

But the rate dropped to 37% when only counting those who confirmed this with a test to measure carbon monoxide levels in their bloodstream, which indicates tobacco use.

Someone is counted as having quit if they report that two weeks after their quit date they are no longer taking a puff.

The self-reported rate in Dorset was below the average of 51% across England as a whole – this decreased to 36% nationally for those tested.

There was a wide disparity between different areas – 83% of smokers in Warrington, Cheshire, reported quitting compared to just 11% in Cumbria.

The charity Action on Smoking and Health said the variation in the support smokers can receive across the country “is not good enough”.

A spokeswoman for Action on Smoking and Health said: “All smokers deserve support to quit and for many it can make the difference between success and failure.

“However, good services need funding and national government has repeatedly cut the public health budget.

“We are now in the midst of a respiratory pandemic with the biggest impacts being felt by the most disadvantaged, and while local authorities are doing their best, if we’re to ensure that all smokers get the help they need, those cuts to the public health budget must be reversed.”

Dorset did not provide a figure for the cash allocated for stop smoking services in 2019-20. However, most councils recorded a drop in funding compared to 2014-15, the earliest period with comparable data.

The programme usually includes support such as group therapy or one-to-one counselling, although these have been suspended due to the coronavirus.

Rachael Hodges, senior policy officer at the British Lung Foundation, said: “While face-to-face support has come to a halt due to Covid-19, many stop smoking services are continuing to provide behavioural support and stop smoking treatment remotely.

“We’d urge anyone looking to quit to search online for NHS smoke-free to find support near them.” In Dorset, men and women were equally successful at spurning cigarettes, with 44% quitting in both cases.

Across the nation as a whole, the figure stood at 53% for men and 50% for women.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said smoking rates were at a record low level of 14.4% across the country.

She added: “However, we are not complacent and our ambition is for England to become a smoke-free society by 2030.

“Prevention remains at the heart of our NHS Long Term Plan, and this year we have made £3 billion of funding available to support local authorities, including stop smoking services.”