NHS Greater Manchester relaunches its hard-hitting ‘What Will You Miss’ campaign to encourage smokers in the region to quit the habit for good.

A new survey [1] has revealed that 53% of people in the city-region have lost a friend or family member to a smoking-related illness.

It comes as the Government announces new legislation around tobacco to create a smoke-free generation and NHS Greater Manchester relaunches its hard-hitting ‘What Will You Miss’ campaign, highlighting that up to two in three smokers will die early if they don’t take the steps to quit. [2]

What does the survey show?

The survey highlights the devastating impact smoking continues to have on people’s lives in Greater Manchester. It found that:

  • Two thirds of people (65%) believe smoking means you miss out on key life events – with over half of those who smoke (56%) saying they are worried they will miss out on future life events as a result, and 42% feeling like they already miss too much.
  • Over 6 in 10 (61%) say they or someone they know has missed out on something as a result of smoking. Most notably not being able to exercise as much as they would like (32%), missing out on stories, jokes or the flow of conversation (27%) and not being able to take part in the past times they enjoy (19%).

Mum of five, Debbie Lindsay from Chadderton had to give up her teaching career when she was 58, due to ill health caused by smoking. She said: “I’m not surprised people feel like they’re missing out. I loved my job, but I wasn’t able to give my class the continuity they needed due to my COPD. I’ve lost so many friends and family to smoking, people who should still be here enjoying their lives and seeing their children grow up. A smoke-free future can’t come soon enough for me.”

Find out more Debbie’s story – YouTube 

Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death and illness in Greater Manchester. It is estimated that there are around 150,000 smokers living in ill-health and almost 15,000 out of work due to smoking-related Illness [3].

Rebecca Fletcher, Director of Public Health for Oldham who lost her mum to lung cancer, said: “My mum died when she was just 63 – she still had so much living to do. She’d had a cough for a while that she’d ignored and when she finally got help, she was diagnosed with lung cancer due to smoking and died two months later. I didn’t expect to lose my mum when I was in my thirties – there are so many birthdays and family occasions that she’s missed. If we end smoking, we can end the biggest cause of lung cancer and save thousands of families from the heartache that I’ve been through.”

Jane Pilkington, Director of Population Health at NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care, said:

“In Greater Manchester, too many communities are suffering from the harms of tobacco. Smoking is a lethal addiction which often starts in childhood and ends up killing two in three long term smokers. This is why we are committed to making smoking history, as we want to see a healthier, smoke-free future for everyone.

“It is vital that we work together to end health inequalities across our city-region and protect our communities from the impact of smoking. No-one should have to miss out on treasured memories with their loved ones or have their life expectancy cut short because their choices were taken away from them by tobacco.”

Residents who have seen the ‘What Will You Miss’ campaign have described it as ‘powerful’ and praised its integrity saying it ‘shows the truth of what’s happening’ to smokers and their families. Watch the reaction of Greater Manchester residents here.

Tips and resources to help you quit

Quitting smoking can be difficult, so Make Smoking History have provided some tips on how to increase your chances of success:

  • Use the Smoke Free app. This free app provides 24/7 support at the touch of a button.
  • You’re much more likely to quit for good with help than relying on will power alone. So make the most of local advice and support services in your area.
  • Try switching to e-cigarettes or vapes. Get a free vape starter kit through the ‘swap to stop’ scheme by downloading the Smoke Free app.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy (or NRT) can help combat cravings when you first stop smoking. Products can be bought over the counter or from your pharmacist, and in some cases, they are even available free or on prescription from your local stop smoking service or GP.

For free, personalised support to stop smoking in Greater Manchester visit www.MakeSmokingHistory.co.uk or call the NHS Stop Smoking Helpline on 0300 123 1044. 

If you live in Greater Manchester, you can get six months access to all features on the app, including a vape starter kit for free. Find out more at: https://www.smokefreeapp.com/GM


[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Opinium Research.  Total sample size was 1,000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th – 24th October 2023.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in Greater Manchester (aged 18+).

[2] The Khan review – “Making smoking obsolete”. Independent review commissioned by the UK Government into smoke-free 2030 policies by Dr Javed Khan OBE, Published 9 June 2022

[3] Action on Smoking and Health, Smoking, Employability and Earnings 2020

Make Smoking History – What Will You Miss? Quit today

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