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Put your lungs first for Stoptober

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Smokers in England are being encouraged to put their lungs first, strengthen their immune system and breathe easier ahead of flu season for Stoptober.


It comes as new figures suggest more smokers have been making quit attempts during the pandemic and more are doing so successfully.


The nation's biggest quit attempt is back – but this year's Stoptober is potentially the most important one yet. Smokers are being encouraged to join over 2 million smokers who have made a quit attempt since 2012 with the annual campaign.


Smoking damages the lungs and airways and harms the immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to infections, such as flu. Smokers generally have an increased risk of contracting respiratory infections and experiencing more severe symptoms. Stopping smoking brings immediate benefits to health, including for people with an existing smoking-related disease.


In the North East 1 in 7 adults now smoke (15.3%) compared to 29% back in 2005. This is the biggest drop of any English region. National smoking prevalence among adults in England is also at an all-time low of 13.9%.


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "We are all conscious of the need to stay fit and healthy right now and not place ourselves at an additional risk of ill health. Smoking harms your fitness and your lungs, and increases the risks of cancer, heart disease and stroke.


"Since the start of the pandemic we have seen an increase in smokers trying to quit. As the Autumn approaches it is incredibly important to give it another go, and thousands of people will be doing so this Stoptober. Don't ever give up on quitting smoking or think it is too late - no matter when you quit, it brings important health benefits at any age."


Respiratory consultant Dr Ruth Sharrock, from Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, and the face of the recent "Don't Wait" TV campaign, said: "We all want to protect ourselves and our families right now, but that is especially important if you smoke. Smoking causes lung damage, weakened immune systems, cancer, heart attack, diabetes and stroke. By quitting, you are extending life expectancy and improving your health. It is never too late to see the benefits that come from quitting smoking. You should never give up on yourself – my advice is to give it another go and try until you succeed."


The COVID pandemic has led to a surge in quitting in 2020. Data shows that in England in 2020 there has been a 22% increase in quit attempts compared to 2019 and a quitting success rate of 23%, the highest since at least 2007.


Tracy Little, 54, from Newcastle decided to quit smoking after witnessing the birth of her grandson in October 2019. A year later, having saved money and improved her health, she is determined to stick with her achievement. Tracy said: "I started smoking when I was around 10 years old and carried on for 43 years. I decided to give up last October. I had tried loads and loads of times before and just didn't seem to have the willpower.


"I think that I didn't really want to quit, even though I had a lot of chest infections was diagnosed with COPD and asthma. The final point came on October 16th 2019, which was when my grandson was born. I was at the birth, there were some complications during which he was not breathing for six minutes and I just thought: I don't want to smoke anymore.


"Since stopping smoking I am saving more money. My circumstances changed I am not working anymore, but I still managed to keep off the cigarettes – I hardly use my blue asthma inhaler anymore. I also have fibromyalgia and a few different things, and I now find that I don't get that much out of breath as I used to.


"My family can't believe that I managed to do it so quickly – I was the most surprised of anybody. Several of them have said that they didn't believe that I could do it and how much better and healthier I am as a result. I feel absolutely elated – proud of myself. I never thought I could do it and I have."


Leading UK health organisations including ASH, BLF, BHF and Cancer Research UK are joining in with Public Health England's call to get smokers in England to give quitting a go this Stoptober.


Professor Jamie Brown, Director of the UCL Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group and co-author of a living rapid evidence review on smoking and COVID-19, said: "Evidence shows that many more smokers are trying to quit in 2020 and the highest numbers are succeeding since at least 2007.


"While the evidence on COVID-19 outcomes for smokers is still developing and remains uncertain, what is clear is that stopping smoking brings rapid improvements in respiratory and cardiovascular health.


"Quitting now will not only benefit people's individual health and help improve their lung health ahead of flu season, but it will also help to reduce the demands on the healthcare system in these difficult times."


Stoptober provides the information and support people need to quit smoking for 28 days, based on research that if a smoker can make it to 28 days smokefree, they are five times more likely to quit for good.


This year, Stoptober is offering a range of free support tools for those looking to quit, including digital services that are easily accessible for those looking for online support. These tools include the Stoptober app, Facebook messenger bot and online communities, SMS and daily emails. There is also a Personal Quit Plan that helps people find a combination of stop smoking support that's right for them, with options including expert support from local Stop Smoking Services, stop smoking aids and digital tools.


Search 'Stoptober' now for a full range of quitting support options.