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Don’t give up on quitting as second lockdown begins



Ex-smokers are being urged to stay strong and stock up on quitting aids if necessary, to avoid going back to smoking in the second national lockdown.


The plea from Fresh comes after a surge in quitting during the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen increases in quit attempts and the highest quit success rates among smokers since 2007.


Fresh, with the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System has launched the Don't Wait campaign featuring North East respiratory doctor Dr Ruth Sharrock urging smokers to put their lungs first and quit ahead of the flu season.


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]


With more people staying at home during the second national lockdown, Fresh is urging smokers to think of their families and avoid exposing their loved ones to the dangers of secondhand smoke.


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "Since the start of the pandemic we have seen a big increase in smokers quitting – our message is that you've come so far and it is vital now not to go back to smoking, even if people are feeling more anxious and stressed. Ensuring you have enough quitting medication, or vaping supplies will help you stay off tobacco. Think of all the reasons you quit.


"If you're still smoking, it is incredibly important to give quitting a go, especially as the winter approaches. Stopping smoking brings important health benefits at any age.


"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. While more of us are at home, the best thing anyone who smokes can do right now for their health and their family's health is to stop smoking completely.


"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."


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."


38-year-old Cam Walton from Ryhope quit smoking in May 2020, after her oldest daughter begged her to stop. After successfully quitting during the first national lockdown, she's encouraging others to give it a go as the second comes in.




Mum-of-two, Cam, who works in IT, said: "I was a 10-a-day smoker and managed to stop a number of times over the years, but I always started up again.


"I went upstairs one day during lockdown, to find my oldest daughter crying in her room. She was so worried about losing her mum and I promised her I would stop smoking.


"When I finished my last packet of cigarettes, that was it. I quit cold turkey – I was so determined. It also coincided with the menthol ban coming in. I was a menthol smoker and I just thought what's the point? If I couldn't buy them, it made perfect sense to quit.


"I've saved loads since quitting. The way I think of it is – I'm not wasting money on something that could kill me. I can treat the girls and buy nice things for the house. I feel better in myself, I'm exercising more and my skin and hair are noticeably better. I used to get a bad chest which has improved too.


"I stopped during Covid-19 and although I had my own personal reasons for quitting, I do think the pandemic has made people, including me, think about their health. I could've stopped any time, but there was always a reason not to before. If I ever felt stressed, I had a cigarette, but now I know that I can manage much better without them.


"I think lockdown helped me to quit in many ways as I wasn't around other people smoking, so it is well and truly out of my system now and I have got into a new routine. Not smoking is my new normal – and I would urge anyone else to give quitting a go too."


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.

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