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1 in 6 cut down or quit for Don't Wait



After a surge in quitting during COVID-19, smokers in the North East are being encouraged to put their lungs first, strengthen their immune system and quit ahead of flu season this winter.


It comes as a powerful plea by respiratory doctor Dr Ruth Sharrock hits TV screens again as part of the "Don't Wait" campaign from Fresh and the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, urging smokers that it is never too late to quit. The campaign launches again from 26 October.


The COVID-19 pandemic has seen 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.[1]


In the North East, an online survey of nearly 800 people found that over 8/10 smokers who saw the Don't Wait campaign in June took some form of action – with nearly 1 in 6 smokers or around 49,000 people cutting down or quitting as a result.  Now, with the additional concerns of flu and other winter illnesses on the horizon, Don't Wait is calling on all smokers to make a quit attempt, even if previous attempts were unsuccessful.


Dr Ruth Sharrock, respiratory consultant with Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, Clinical Lead for the North East Smokefree NHS/Treating Tobacco Dependency Taskforce and the face of the recent Don't Wait media campaign, said: "Unfortunately as we move into the winter COVID-19 is changing our lives again and we are bound to feel anxious.




"I know some people think it is too late to quit after they've smoked for years, but it is never too late. You start to see improvements as soon as you stop and those get more and more as the days, weeks and months go by.


"I see too many lives cut short from smoking, but some amazing outcomes when people are able to stop. We see people who are desperately unwell but when they stop they can get out to walk the dog and play with their grandkids."


Former smoker Philip Kyle, 55, a project support officer quit in April 2020 and has climbed mountains as a result of quitting.


In September Phil and his wife Dot scaled a brace of Munros, Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet. He said: "I remember sitting at the top of one of them enjoying the view and thinking I would not have managed this a year ago."


He said: "It wasn't until the coronavirus outbreak happened that I seriously considered giving quitting another go. Due to my health condition I am immunosuppressed, so I was very concerned about contracting COVID-19 as it would have serious implications for me.


"I knew I needed support to quit so I contacted Health Works Newcastle and spoke to one of their advisors, who was brilliant. She recommended I used nicotine patches and a nasal spray to help with the cravings. It's now been over five months since I quit and I feel great.


Since quitting, my blood pressure has lowered and I feel much fitter, which means I can enjoy sporting activities with my family. The financial gain has also been terrific; we call the money saved the 'treat pot'."


In cases where smokers have struggled to stop previously, switching over totally to vaping may provide an alternative quitting method, with recent research showing e-cigarettes to be 70% more effective than nicotine replacement therapy at helping smokers to stop completely.


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 a big increase in smokers quitting. As the winter approaches it is incredibly important to give it a go. 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."


Ailsa Rutter added, "It's been a difficult year for many of us and with thoughts turning to Christmas, the cost of smoking can also be a huge motivator for smokers looking to quit. Smoking 10 cigarettes a day costs around £150 a month, so quitting now could lead to big savings in time for the festive season."


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