PHA gives smokers 4,000 reasons to stop smoking

Gerry Bleakney, Lead for Tobacco Control at the PHA, said: “This campaign focuses on the crucial fact that every time a smoker has a cigarette they are inhaling over 4,000 chemicals, including ammonia – the bleach in toilet cleaner, benzene – commonly found in paint stripper, acetone – found in nail polish remover and hydrogen cyanide which is used in rat poison. It is a toxic mix which is delivered straight into the body with every cigarette smoked.

“Smoking is a killer addiction and remains the greatest cause of preventable death and disease in our society. Smoking causes life-threatening illnesses including cancers, lung disease, heart disease and stroke and in 2008 claimed 2,400 lives prematurely. However, we know the majority of smokers really do want to stop and the good news is that every year thousands are successful in their quit attempt.”

At present 24% of people in Northern Ireland smoke and this contributes to around 30% of all cancers.¹ Tobacco related cancers such as lung, oesophageal and stomach cancers, have a low rate of survival, according to the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry.

Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey supporting the campaign, said: “I hope that this campaign will encourage people to stop and think about the harm they are doing to themselves, and to access one of the many services available to help them to quit. We all know that smoking kills. It is a highly destructive habit that leads to many preventable deaths each and every year. Health inequalities would also be greatly reduced if people stopped smoking.”

Research shows our most deprived areas have more than twice the level of smoking related deaths, 187 per 100,000, compared to the least deprived areas, 91 per 100,000 while the Northern Ireland average is 126 deaths per 100,000.²

Gerry concluded: “Smoking is indeed a major cause of health inequality and is the main cause of the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor. The divide this addiction creates in life expectancy is shocking. You are 60% more likely to die from lung cancer if you live in the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland.

“We hope the campaign will encourage smokers to think about making a quit attempt to give up smoking for good. We know that stopping smoking is not easy and it is an incredibly hard habit to break. Nicotine is an addictive substance and experts have said the nicotine in cigarettes can be as addictive as drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Despite this, 3 out of 4 ex-smokers do manage to quit without help, but help is available if needed and can quadruple your chances of being successful.”

The campaign includes television, radio, outdoor and online advertising and will run from today until the end of November. Posters will also be distributed to GP surgeries, pharmacies and central health promotion resource service in local Health and Social Care Trusts. If you are interested in stopping smoking visit for further information and the location of your local stop smoking cessation service. There are over 600 specialist service providers in Northern Ireland in GP surgeries, pharmacies, acute services and community and voluntary organisations.

Notes to the editor

There will be an opportunity for media interviews on Wednesday 6 October 2010 when Mark McBride, Tobacco Control Coordinator with the PHA, will be available for interview. Please contact Press Office to arrange.

¹ NISRA: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. The continuous household survey.

² Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Inequalities Monitoring system. Third update bulletin. NISRA. Belfast. 2009.

Further information

Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.