Smokers are being encouraged to quit the habit by Calderdale Council which sent campaigners onto the streets of Halifax wearing masks to show the long term effects of smoking on No Smoking Day, 12 March 2014.
The masks show the effects of three medical conditions caused by smoking long term: tracheotomy (hole in the neck) to treat head, throat, neck cancer or pneumonia; mouth cancer and gum disease and throat cancer. They also show how smoking causes signs of premature ageing including wrinkles, thinning and greying hair and cataracts.
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Health Inequalities, Cllr Simon Young, said:
“Smoking still remains the biggest cause of premature death in England, and harms nearly every single organ in the body. Smoking is linked to many different cancers including those of the lip, mouth, throat, bladder, kidney and stomach.
“The idea behind this campaign is not to scare people but to educate them about the potential consequences of smoking. There’s a huge difference between knowing that smoking harms your body and being faced with the stark reality of what it looks like.”
Campaigners wore the masks to grab the attention of local smokers and then give them a free NHS quit kit. Around 800 quit kits were given out to smokers and to people whose friends or loved ones smoke. Each pack contains:
- information on face to face support – smokers are up to four times more likely to stay smoke free with this support;
- advice on where to get stop smoking medicines to help with withdrawal symptoms, which if used can help smokers quit for good;
- the quit kit step by step calendar – this has helped over two million people and is proven to increase chances of quitting for good with help that you can have in the comfort of your own home;
- information on a smokefree app – available to smokers with a smartphone, the app provides personalised motivational messages to provide encouragement when they’re needed and a clever distraction function to help combat cravings when they strike;
- daily emails to help smokers keep on track, with useful tips, which have already helped over 70,000 people;
- text support which 71% of the smokers who have used it say has helped them to keep going;
- a test to indicate your level of addiction;
- a notepad to make a plan with tips on increasing chances to stay quit and
- a wheel which shows the health and financial benefits of being smokefree from the first 20 minutes of giving up through to your tenth anniversary.
Calderdale Council’s Director of Public Health, Paul Butcher, said:
“Smokers who want to give up are not alone. Everyone is different and it may take a few different types of support to help you quit – you just need to find the right one for you.
“Face to face support is very successful, and is recommended by nine out of ten smokers who have used it through their NHS stop smoking service. But if that isn’t for you there are many other tools in the kit for you to choose from. Around 22% of adults in Calderdale smoke. During Stoptober last year 850 smokers joined the race to quit and we’re hoping to help even more people this year.”
The benefits of quitting aren’t just to your health. Former smoker, Simon Smith is now celebrating his first anniversary after kicking the habit a year ago with the help of his local NHS stop smoking service:
“Since quitting, my relationships with friends and family have improved as I can give more of my time without feeling anxious. I am on a low income so now have more money and have booked a mini break to Wales with my wife – a year ago I could never have done this.
“The face to face support from the local NHS stop smoking service helped me through the hard times. I was depressed and all I could think about was a cigarette but during a craving we chatted and they stopped me in my tracks, I didn’t give in.
“You have to make it a priority for you, and yes it’s scary, but you will always have issues in life to deal with and a cigarette won’t make it better. If you prioritise quitting smoking, line up the help and take baby steps, then you will succeed.”
The masks were kindly loaned, free of charge, to Calderdale Council by HealthExpress www.healthexpress.co.uk(external link) – an online pharmacy that created the masks for Stoptober 2013.