Plight of desperate East Midland’s smokers prompts rallying cry for greater government support

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Over a fifth (22%) smokers surveyed in the East Midlands have lost count of the number of times they’ve tried to quit and just under one in twenty (6%) say they are ‘desperate’ to beat their addiction, according to a new report by the British Heart Foundation to mark the 30th No Smoking Day.

The ‘30 No Smoking Days Later’ report highlights the glory years of declining smoking rates but puts the spotlight on a current plateau in prevalence at around 20 per cent. It pinpoints the plight of the ‘final fifth’, many of whom will have been addicted to tobacco for years. It concludes that a step-change in efforts is vital to reach these people and kick-start a renewed steep decline in smoking rates.

The report calls on UK governments and local authorities to act now and step up the help available for struggling smokers in the East Midlands via local support services and implement new laws to strip away the glamour of smoking with ‘standardised’ packaging.

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director for the BHF, said: “Every year more than 100,000 smokers die because of their addiction. This addiction can be incredibly hard to break and we hear time and again about smokers who are absolutely desperate to quit, they just don’t know where to start. No Smoking Day is here every year to support smokers no matter how long – or how many times – it takes, we cannot work alone.

“The downward trend in smoking rates has plateaued in recent years, proving we need to renew our efforts to help our ‘final fifth’ quit. Often these are long-term smokers, or people surrounded by family, friends and colleagues who smoke. They’re harder to reach, and they’ll probably find it hard to quit.

“That’s why we all need to reinvigorate our efforts to help smokers and UK governments are part of the mix. We need investment in local stop smoking services and measures such as standardised packaging to help protect our children from the fatal addiction so many people are currently battling with.”

Research confirms that two thirds of smokers want to stop however the report showed that just over eight in ten (82%) of those surveyed in the East Midlands said they’d tried and failed to quit, and over two thirds (35%) have made between four and 21 or more attempts. Smokers make an average of just over four quit attempts, according to the new data.

What motivates smokers to quit was explored in the report. It showed more than half (56%) of smokers in the East Midlands hate being told about the long term health risks of smoking, and already know it’s bad for them. Over a quarter (28%) said the financial impact of smoking is more of a motivator to quit than the effects on their long-term health.

In keeping with this financial theme, the BHF is hijacking cigarette packs from today by virtually transforming them in smokers’ hands into treats they could afford if they quit. Using the free ‘BlippAR’ app, smokers with Android or iPhones can scan what will hopefully become their last cigarette pack and watch it disappear in a puff of smoke revealing items they could afford with a week, month, or years’ worth of smoking savings.

Each year, the No Smoking Day campaign is responsible for helping more than 750,000 people across the UK attempt to quit on the day, and for inspiring another 1.5 million to seek out information to help them quit in future.

Approximately 10 million UK adults smoke but more than half want to give up.

Smokers who want to find out more can visit WeQuit.co.uk, call our free helpline on 0800-4346677 or join us on twitter using the hashtag #NoSmokingDay.