Adult smokers aged between 20-49 are the primary focus of a major new public health information campaign to be launched by the Public Health Agency (PHA) on Wednesday 5 January.
The new campaign has been developed to motivate and encourage smokers to make a quit attempt by firstly focusing on why smokers should quit and secondly offering a range of options on how to quit.
In Northern Ireland, smoking is the largest preventable cause of ill health and premature death, contributing not only to lung cancer, heart disease, bronchitis and asthma, but also to many other diseases. It claims between 2,700 and 3,000 deaths per year.
Approximately 340,000 adults smoke, or 24% of the adult population. While there has been a decrease in the number of adults smoking over the past two decades, 24% is still far too high, especially compared to places such as Australia, where approximately 19% of adults smoke, and California, where around 13% of adults smoke.
Dr Carolyn Harper, PHA Director of Public Health, said: “Although we have seen a reduction in smoking rates, there is still some way to go. For example, we know that 34% of semi-skilled and 36% of unskilled manual workers currently smoke. This new campaign aims to raise awareness of the health effects of smoking and the range of smoking cessation support that is available. What we want to see is an increase in the numbers of adult smokers making a quit attempt.
“Three quarters of smokers want to quit but need support to motivate them into action. The good news is that when a smoker does quit, the benefits start immediately. Within 24 hours, carbon monoxide will disappear completely from your system and within 48 hours, there is no nicotine left either. This is just the start of the repair process and the enormous positive effects that those who quit will experience."
Dr Harper added: “In developing the campaign, our work with smokers showed that the most effective messages were those that contained personal stories about how it feels to experience a smoking-related illness – not just for the smoker, but also the impact it can have on families. Health is the main reason smokers attempt to quit and encouragement from family, in particular children, is a key motivating factor. ”
Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, said: "The battle to reduce the appalling toll of premature death and avoidable illness caused by tobacco is a huge challenge. Together with the PHA, the Department has made good progress in recent years, such as the introduction of smoke-free legislation and the increase in age-of-sale requirements."
Dr McBride continued: “However, much more needs to be done to tackle smoking rates in Northern Ireland. Our emphasis will continue to be on discouraging young people from taking up smoking, helping smokers to quit and protecting the public from harm caused by tobacco smoke. It is important to remember that quitting smoking is the single most important decision you will ever make."
The Public Health Agency is encouraging anyone interested in quitting to contact the cessation helpline on 0808 812 8008 for advice and support.
Please contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.
Notes to the editor
1. The ‘Things to do before you die’ campaign will be launched at the PHA, Ormeau Avenue at 11am on Wednesday 5 January 2011. The campaign will run from the 6 January until 31 March 2011. It includes television, radio, outdoor, washroom and online advertising.
2. The campaign is composed of two strands. One focuses on why smokers should quit and reinforces the health risks and the consequences of smoking. This describes how it feels to experience a smoking-related illness, not just for the smoker - but also the impact on their family.
3. The campaign includes television, radio, online and washroom poster advertising. Smokers can get help and information about smoking cessation services, GP and pharmacy support, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and the new Quit Kit resource by logging onto the smoking cessation website www.want2stop.info or by calling the Smokers Helpline on 0808 812 8008.
4. Two thirds to three quarters of ex-smokers stop unaided, without assistance from smoking cessation services. For those who prefer help and support, the second strand of the campaign focuses on how to quit. This part of the campaign highlights the range of help available and reinforces the message that quitting is achievable with the right support and motivation. Support highlighted in this part of the campaign includes the smoking cessation services, GP/pharmacy support, helpline, website www.want2stop.info and the Quit Kit.
5. The Quit Kit has been developed for smokers who want to quit on their own and opt to use ‘cold turkey’ as a quitting method. Uptake of the kit in England has been very good and the evaluation findings are very positive.
6. In Northern Ireland, 7% of professionals, 34% of semi-skilled workers and 36% of unskilled workers smoke, with Belfast, Foyle and south Antrim having the highest smoking rates (26–38% compared to NI average of 24%). The figures for pregnant women who smoke are 18% (average) and as high as 44% in Belfast. Among young people, the rate of smoking is 21% in 16-19 year olds, with 20-24 year olds having the highest rate (39%).
7. A media facility will be available to all media outlets – a PHA spokesperson will be available for interview both before and after the launch, as well as a respiratory clinician. Copies of the advert and samples of the Quit Kit will be available.