Mayor - Do yourself a favour and pack in smoking

Wednesday, March 9 , one week from today, is national No Smoking Day.

If you have been thinking about quitting smoking or tried in the past and not succeeded, what better time to give it a crack?

Smoking cessation rates in Hartlepool are among the highest in the country over recent years and a lot of that success is down to the excellent work that is being delivered by staff from the Primary Care Trust.

Drop-in sessions right across the town have proved to be extremely popular and the advice and health checks on offer have really had a positive effect on hundreds of smokers and ex-smokers.

Having been a smoker myself, I know how difficult it can be to give up and I certainly don’t want to preach to anyone because I also know that most smokers not only feel they need a cigarette but also very much enjoy one.

In truth, the first step for someone to give up smoking comes when their reasons for quitting outweigh their reasons for smoking.

There are many reasons that drive people to wanting to stop smoking which range from their own health or family reasons to financial or even image reasons.

Statistics show that two thirds of smokers in Britain do want to quit smoking so the next step is for them to have access to the right advice and support in their fight to pack in the fags.

For tips on how to stop smoking, the websites www.nosmokingday.org.uk and www.wequit.co.uk and are probably a good starting point.

A trip to the chemist to stock up on patches and gum is also a preferred option for many people.

However, for a dedicated local smoking cessation service, face to face support and, statistically, an extremely good chance of being able to quit, I would highly recommend getting in touch with the local Primary Care Trust and accessing the services they have on offer.

You can either visit www.nhs.uk/smokefree or call 0800 1690 169 or text QUIT to 88088.

The benefits of stopping are immediate.

Within just twenty minutes your blood pressure and pulse return to normal.

Within 48 hours, there is no nicotine left in your body and your sense of taste and smell are greatly improved.

Your health improves dramatically over a short time and I’m personally delighted that, having recently passed the five year mark, my chances of a heart attack have more than halved.

It makes good sense financially as well. I got a shock the other day when I just happened to notice the price of the brand I used to smoke had gone up by nearly £2.00 a packet in just five years.

A 20-a-day smoker can save up to £2,300 a year by putting aside the money they currently spend on cigarettes.

As I’ve said, we are making tremendous strides in Hartlepool and our overall smoking rate is down to about 21 per cent of our population, which brings us into line with the national average.

There are some wards in Hartlepool where the rate is still over 50 per cent though and this is where a large chunk of the resource is being aimed.

Smoking cessation is the single biggest preventer of death through lung and heart disease. It probably won’t surprise you that nine out of 10 people that die from a lung related disease is a smoker.

The British Lung Foundation does some excellent work in Hartlepool through their Breathe Easy campaign by providing support and awareness of lung related problems.

Despite our high levels of people stopping smoking, Hartlepool still has one of the country’s worst rates of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which is a big killer.

They work closely with the PCT in Hartlepool to support people in stopping smoking and there are some very recent instances where lung problems have been diagnosed and treated very early and therefore prevented much bigger problems later in life.

Quitting smoking is one of the most difficult things you will do this year if you decide to give it a try next week but I can guarantee it will be one of the most rewarding.

The advice, the support network and the number of people who are in exactly the same boat has never been greater and your chances of quitting for good are better than they have ever been so why not use next Wedneday as the first day of becoming a non-smoker and become one of Hartlepool’s more positive statistics rather than a much more negative one?