Healthy Living: New drive to help kick a killer habit

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The new year is six days old - and now the festivities are well and truly over, many people’s thoughts have turned to making good on their 2014 resolutions.

A common pledge is to quit smoking, and to help steel addicts’ resolve to kick the habit, a hard-hitting national campaign has been launched highlighting the toxic damage tobacco smoke does to organs such as the brain, as well as the lungs.

Claire Holden, manager of the Sheffield NHS Stop Smoking Service, said staff managed to help 3,000 put down cigarettes for good last year - and added it was ‘hard to argue’ with the benefits of quitting.

“For as long as I can remember, New Year has been the traditional time when people start thinking about stopping smoking, losing weight or going to the gym,” said Claire.

“Nationally in the last 10 years the number of smokers has come down quite a lot which is great news. Sheffield is slightly higher than the national average, but we’re going in the right direction.”

The Government’s multi-million-pound advertising campaign, called Toxic Cycle, aims to make cigarette smokers think about the less well-known damage that can be done to hearts and brains by inhaling chemicals such as arsenic and cyanide.

It uses graphic images to show ‘polluted blood’ flowing through the body and damaging brain cells.

Claire said: “Stroke is a big cause of premature death in this country, and smoking can lead to bleeding on the brain. It’s trying to remind people that there are serious consequences.”

She admitted that while progress has been made in weaning people off nicotine, a stubborn hard core actually enjoys smoking, while some simply lack the confidence to change.

“There will always be a percentage of people who like smoking and enjoy it, but the majority of people are thinking about quitting, and will quit at some point.

“A big part of it is building up smokers’ confidence to take that step. It’s part of our role to work through that with them, and work out what the barriers are.”

Claire said the Sheffield service offers a ‘tailored package’, combining psychological therapy with medication such as patches and gum.

“We tailor the support to their lifestyle and their level of addiction, and we can address cravings and people’s triggers to smoke - whether there’s a certain point in the day when they need a cigarette.

“For some people it’s a big part of their routine. They have to eliminate cigarettes from their lifestyle.”

The programme runs weekly for four weeks, but can be extended to 12 weeks if needed.

“I absolutely think its worth it,” said Claire.

“For every two smokers that stop we save one life - you can’t tell me that’s not value for money in terms of quality of life, living longer and costs for the NHS. You can’t put a price on extending a life. We really want to encourage people to make a fresh start in the New Year.”

Toxic chemicals damage brain cells

Smoking accounts for 80,000 deaths a year in England, with half of all long-term smokers dying early from a disease related to their habit.

The new campaign shows that inhaling dangerous chemicals in cigarettes harms major organs and increases the risk of stroke and dementia. The toxic substances move through the heart, the lungs and into the bloodstream, finally damaging brain cells.

Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “Smokers need to be aware of how much potential damage is being done to the brain and other vital organs through toxins entering the blood.

“It’s extremely worrying that people still underestimate the harm associated with smoking. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Within five years of stopping, your risk of stroke can be reduced to the same as a lifetime non-smoker.”

For more information about quitting smoking call 0800 068 4490, visit or call in at the ‘Quit Stop’ on Charles Street in Sheffield city centre.