We won’t quit: No Smoking Day makes a promise to 10 million UK smokers
When Mr Tom Hurst first wrote to the Minister for Health asking for a national day to help people stop smoking, the reply was unequivocal: “the Minister feels he is unable to support campaigns which might mislead the public into assuming that a causal relationship between tobacco smoking and cancer had been definitely proved.”
Even when the historic research paper linking tobacco consumption with lung cancer by Richard Doll and Austin Bradford Hill emerged in the mid-1950s, support for anti-smoking initiatives – and those who wanted to give up, was slow in coming.
No Smoking Day unofficially began in 1983, the brainchild of the same Mr Tom Hurst and a collection of medical experts, including Professor John Camm, now the British Heart Foundation Prudential Chair of Clinical Cardiology. On Ash Wednesday the following year, No Smoking Day officially launched. Thirty No Smoking Days later, it’s still here, with 750,000 smokers using the day as a catalyst for change.
Some things are different. The campaign has increasingly moved away from health messaging – finding that smokers are increasingly jaded by the idea of long term health risks. But the yearly format has meant the day can be constantly refreshed. This year it’s all about the money, and those who want to quit are being encouraged to ‘swap their fags for swag’.
And what was a government and charity-funded campaign for many years is now backed almost entirely by one charity – the British Heart Foundation. Smoking doubles a person’s risk of heart attack, a major concern for the nation’s heart charity.
Smoking levels have halved in the last forty years, but that’s not the whole story. For the last six years the number of smokers in the UK has stalled at 20 per cent – that’s 10 million smokers.
This final fifth are from all walks of life, but manual workers are disproportionately represented at 28 per cent of the total remaining. In Scotland, four in ten adults living in the most deprived areas smoke, compared to just one in 10 in the least deprived. And in England, an estimated 40 per cent of men in Bangladeshi communities smoke – double the rate in the general population.
A British Heart Foundation survey of smokers found that eight out of 10 smokers have tried and failed to quit, with an average of four quit attempts each. And for them, and the two thirds of smokers who still say they want to quit, No Smoking Day will be here until every day is no smoking day.
Get support and advice to help you quit smoking, and see the report into the future of smoking in the UK at wequit.co.uk
Tagged in: British Heart Foundation, No Smoking Day
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