Singing the message

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A CHOIR and a wheelchair-bound Hartlepool man joined forces in the battle to raise awareness of a disease which affects the lives of thousands of smokers.

The campaign to highlight smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has arrived in the Tees Valley.

Denham Thomas, 59, a former doorman on pubs and nightclubs around town, believes his problems are down to the 50 cigarettes-a-day he used to smoke.

The West View man said COPD and last stage emphysema have ruined his life.

He was in Middlesbrough as a 27-strong choir took to the streets as part of the campaign group FRESH’s Every Breath campaign to raise awareness of COPD and encourage smokers to quit.

Members of the choir, who are all studying a BA (Hons) in community music at The Sage in Gateshead, sang Sting’s Every Breath You Take in honour of the campaign. Sting, who is originally from the North-East, has backed FRESH’s campaign, giving permission for his song to be used as part of it. Every Breath is also being supported by the British Lung Foundation.

FRESH director Ailsa Rutter said: “We have had a fantastic response to our ‘Every breath’ campaign which we’re aware is already triggering people to visit our local stop smoking services throughout the whole of the region to say they have been inspired to quit. We hope to raise further awareness with our choir.

“Quitting smoking is the best thing anyone can do for their health and people in their 30s and 40s mustn’t ignore the early warning signs of COPD, such as breathlessness.”

Anyone wanting to quit smoking should contact the NHS Smokefree Helpline on 0800 011612, text FRESH and their postcode to 88088, visit www.everybreath.tv or make an appointment to see their GP.