The Don’t Wait campaign launched on 28 December ahead of the New Year when many people are thinking about quitting smoking and making resolutions to improve their health and wellbeing, after a difficult 2020.
It features a powerful plea from respiratory consultant, Dr Ruth Sharrock, who has spent the last nine months caring for patients with COVID-19 and has seen the challenges colleagues and patients have faced in fighting it.
Dr Ruth Sharrock, who features in the campaign, said:
“I want to help everyone look forward to a more positive 2021, where we all reflect on our health and wellbeing, and make some really positive changes. For smokers – the single most important thing you can do to improve your health is to stop smoking. I would urge anyone who wants to quit smoking to contact their local stop smoking services to maximise their chances of success, and for smoker’s families to really help motivate and support them.”
Every year across Greater Manchester, around 5,200 people die too soon from a smoking related illness. In 2018 – 19 there were almost 28,000 hospital admissions for diseases that are wholly or partially attributed to smoking in persons aged 35 and over.
Smoking damages the lungs and weakens the immune system, making it harder to fight infections like chest infections, flu and the coronavirus. It also increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, COPD, stroke and cancer.
49-year-old Lisa Fildes, from Hindley, Wigan, knows all too well the devastation smoking can cause.
A mum of four sons, Lisa, who works as a customer assistant at a supermarket, smoked for nearly four decades after starting at the young age of 10.
Her world was turned upside down in 2018 when she suffered a heart attack, stroke, multi-organ failure and developed sepsis, leaving her in a coma for four and a half weeks.
Lisa is backing the campaign with her personal plea: “I used to smoke 20 a day, first thing in the morning, last thing at night, to cope with stress. I am asthmatic and live with type 1 diabetes, which has been unstable for the last 25 years. In June 2018, I had a heart attack while at home with my children. My eldest son called my husband who dashed home and performed CPR until the ambulance arrived. I was blue lighted to hospital and spent weeks in a coma. I nearly died. It was a terrifying time for the whole family and my husband stayed by my side the whole time.
“After being so ill, I was determined to stop smoking and stayed quit until December 2019 when I had a few puffs of a cigarette and relapsed. My children and family hated that I’d started smoking again, but it was such a powerful addiction.
“During the start of the pandemic, I had to shield due to my health condition and was smoking more at home. It was a high stress environment, but I had developed a nasty chest infection I couldn’t shift so I knew I had to do something.
“I contacted my stop smoking service and my advisor helped me to make a plan, and we discussed different ways to quit. My advisor was fab, she would ring me every week to make sure I was okay and was there any time I needed advice or just to let off some steam. I tried lots of different things, such as patches and gum, but due to my existing health condition they affected my blood sugar levels. I was determined to give up so in the end I found vaping worked best for me.
“Looking at my kids and remembering just how poorly I was, keeps me motivated. I don’t want to end up back in hospital. I want to be around for my boys and my husband. Although I still struggle with my breathing, I am feeling brilliant; I can taste and smell again and I’m back at work.
“It absolutely breaks my heart knowing that smoking probably caused the heart attack. But when you start smoking, you don’t realise how strong that addiction is. I am just so grateful now for every single day with my family.
“My message to anyone who smokes is please don’t wait – give quitting a go now. If I If I can do it, then anyone can do it. Don’t waste all that time getting ill, wasting your money, taking a possible life away from your children or your family. It’s just not worth it.”
The Don’t Wait campaign will run on TV, radio and social media until mid-January. During the previous phase of the campaign around 80% of smokers in Greater Manchester took a quit related action, with nearly one in 10 of all smokers successfully quitting. A third of smokers were also encouraged to try to quit by friends or family who had seen the campaign.
Dr Tom Tasker, GP and interim chair of the Greater Manchester Medical Executive, said:
“2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for everyone, but it has been inspiring to see that many smokers have taken action to improve their health, finances and quit for their loved ones.
“The campaign highlights some of the amazing individuals who have bravely shared their stories, in the hope that others don’t have to experience the suffering they have been through.
“Our message to people this New Year is not to give up on quitting, or themselves. We know that it can take a few attempts to stop smoking for good, but the benefits start from the moment you stop, so please give it a go. It is the best New Year’s resolution you can give yourself – put the past year behind you and make a positive start to 2021.”
Five top quitting tips for the New Year
- Download the free Smoke Free app, which provides you with 24/7 support, advice and all the information you need to stop smoking.
- Find the right quit support for you. There are lots of ways to quit – with support from your local stop smoking service, stop smoking tools, medication, nicotine replacement therapy and e-cigarettes.
- Remember your reasons for quitting – your loved ones, health, to give your bank balance a boost. Write them down and keep them as a reminder to keep going and celebrate your achievements.
- Distract yourself – a hobby, puzzles, playing games on your phone, walking, yoga or other relaxation techniques, can help you to manage cravings and keep your hands busy.
- Look at how much you’ve saved. It’s a great idea to put the money you would have spent on cigarettes in a jar somewhere you can see it. Watch the money build up and treat yourself to something special.
Visit YouCanGM.org to find details of stop smoking services and support across all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester or call the NHS Stop Smoking helpline free on 0300 123 1044.