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Why we can't give up on smoking

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Amanda Clark, RN, MA.

Deputy Editor, Professional Nurse

'Sick of smoking? Why not give up?' This invitation is the theme of this year's National No Smoking Day on Wednesday 12 March.
'Sick of smoking? Why not give up?' This invitation is the theme of this year's National No Smoking Day on Wednesday 12 March.

Since its inception 20 years ago, the day has helped nearly a million people stop smoking for good, according to its organisers. The annual campaign achieves this by raising awareness of the help available to smokers and providing information and support for them.

The Government set targets in its 1998 white paper Smoking Kills for the reduction of smoking in the general population from 28% to 24% by 2010, and it pledged to spend £100 million over three years on health campaigns.

This was supported by the NHS Plan's (2000) aim of reducing the number of smokers by 1.5 million by 2010, a fall of 125 000 smokers per year.

Measures taken include the NHS cessation service, the availability of smoking cessation products on prescription and the development of the NHS Stop Smoking Helpline.

The No Smoking Day campaign is a major provider of materials and resources to help health professionals with health promotion and education. Materials are produced in eight different languages including Welsh, Urdu and Mandarin.

The campaign works alongside other stop smoking services such as national helplines, pharmacists, GPs and smoking cessation nurses. This year's campaign is also targeting midwives with advice about helping pregnant women and their partners to stop.

Who smokes?
About 13 million adults in the UK smoke cigarettes, 29% of men and 25% of women. More than 80% of them take up the habit as teenagers. In fact, in the UK about 450 children start smoking every day.

Almost a quarter of Britain's 15 year-olds - 21% of boys and 26% of girls - are regular smokers, even though it is illegal to sell cigarettes to children under 16.

Who dies?
Every year, around 120 000 smokers in the UK die as a result of their habit.

Smoking kills around six times more people in the UK than road traffic accidents, other accidents, poisoning and overdose, murder and manslaughter, suicide, and HIV infection all put together.

Smoking causes 30% of all cancer deaths, 17% of all heart disease deaths and at least 80% of deaths from bronchitis and emphysema.

It is estimated that several hundred cases of lung cancer and several thousand cases of heart disease in non-smokers in the UK are caused by passive smoking - breathing other people's tobacco smoke.

Polls show that people underestimate the health risks of smoking and the effects of passive smoking.

Who gives up?
People do give up - 20% of women and 27% of men are ex-smokers. Surveys show about 70% of current smokers would like to give up altogether.

Useful contacts
- For more information on this year's No Smoking Day contact:

No Smoking Day
59 Redchurch Street
London E2 7DJ.

- See the website at where there are samples of campaign materials which health-care professionals can order. Call the campaign on Tel: 0870 770 7909 if you would like an order form.

- Helplines:

England NHS Smoking Helpline 0800 169 0 169

Scotland 0800 84 84 84

Wales 0800 169 0 169

Northern Ireland 02890 663281

Department of Health. (2000) The NHS Plan: a plan for investment, a plan for reform. London: DoH, 2000.
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