The damaging impact of smoking is being highlighted in Northern Ireland’s new campaign to tackle smoking prevalence, which is being launched today [29 December] by the Public Health Agency (PHA).
Sadly one in every two smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease, so this new campaign features the story of someone who was one of those “one in two” and aims to motivate and encourage smokers to make a quit attempt.
Gerry Collins, a businessman who had been a coach at Dublin GAA club Kilmacud Crokes, had originally appeared in a Health Service Executive ad in 2011 to encourage people to stop smoking. In the video, he spoke about how he had survived throat cancer after smoking up to 60 cigarettes a day for many years before giving up, and encouraged other smokers to quit.
However, just two years after the campaign ran, Gerry was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He and his family allowed the HSE and a film crew to video them over a period of several days about what it was like to be given his diagnosis. Sadly Gerry died from tobacco-related lung cancer in March 2014, but his campaign has inspired in excess of 300,000 quit attempts in the Republic of Ireland since the beginning of 2014.
Gerry Bleakney, Strategic Lead for Tobacco Control with the PHA, said: “In Northern Ireland around 360,000 people aged 16 and over smoke, and sadly one in every two smokers die early because of their smoking habit.
“Like many smokers, Gerry Collins said that he believed that he wouldn’t be one of the half of smokers who die from their habit, but sadly this wasn’t to be the case.
“Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness, premature death and health inequality throughout Northern Ireland. And whilst the rate of smoking in the population declined further from 24% to 22% last year, which proves that we can change this pattern, still too many people continue to smoke.
“Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, a variety of cancers and blindness. Stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your health and the risk to your overall health decreases significantly soon after you stop.
“We hope that this campaign will encourage as many smokers as possible to recognise the damage that smoking is causing to their health and encourage them to make a quit attempt as soon as possible. The benefits of stopping start immediately and continue for a long time, as long as you don’t start smoking again.
“While some people might be able to stop smoking with very little support, others find that planning ahead and making use of the support services that are available can really help them make the decision permanent.
“If you quit and then relapse, accept it, work out why it happened, and focus on how you can avoid it in the future. For many people it can take several efforts to quit for good, but if you are determined, you will do it. Last year thousands of people decided to make a stop smoking attempt using the PHA’s stop smoking services and more than half of them were still stopped at 4 weeks. Many others will have stopped on their own.”
Speaking at the time the original campaign was aired, Gerry Collins said: “There were three reasons I decided I wanted to do this – firstly it was for myself; a positive thing for me to invest my energy in while dealing with my cancer. Secondly, I thought it would be good for my family, creating something powerful and meaningful for my kids to look back on. And finally, if even one person stops smoking because of what we’ve done, then it will all be worth it for me.”
For more information and useful tips to stop smoking, to order a quit kit or to find your local stop smoking service visit the PHA’s ‘Want 2 Stop’ website at www.want2stop.info, use our SMS service by texting ‘Quit’ to 70004 or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/want2stopni
For more information on the campaign visit http://www.want2stop.info/campaign