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TWO North East former smokers are getting behind this year’s Stoptober campaign and urging others to quit after enjoying the benefits of giving up.

Deborah Butler from Newcastle and Graham Jones from Gateshead were both smokers from an early age but quit last year for the sake of their health. After stopping smoking their health has improved dramatically and their lives have been transformed for the better. They are now calling on others to take their health seriously and consider quitting during Stoptober, in the tenth year of campaign.

Deborah is lead singer with Newcastle-based soul band, The Odels. She quit smoking in December 2020 after deciding to adopt a healthier lifestyle ahead of turning 50. Her local stop smoking service helped her to quit and has found she has much more energy and can breathe more easily, which helps when she sings with her band. See video

She said: “I was totally addicted to smoking, as it was the first thing I thought of when I got up in the morning. I’d smoked since I was about 16 and back then I didn’t think about the long-term effects of smoking even though I smoked every day.

“As I got older, I smoked more when I was out socially, and drinking and smoking went hand in hand for me. So, I decided to stop both and adopt a healthier lifestyle.

“With help from Newcastle Stop Smoking service, I’ve now been smokefree for over nine months. I have a totally different lifestyle – I swim every morning before work, and I have much more energy. I am the lead singer in the band The Odels and I’ve noticed that I have much more lung power when I perform, which is brilliant. “My advice to anyone who is considering quitting smoking is be determined, don’t push yourself, give yourself a goal and get support from your local stop smoking service.” Graham Jones, 54, smoked for over 45 years but decided to quit after signing up to be a kidney donor. After trying several different methods to quit smoking, Graham found his stride by going out regularly on the bike to beat his cravings, and has now been smoke-free for over nine months. See video

He said: “I knew I had abused my health when I was younger and, honestly, I didn’t expect to live past 50. But as my kids grew up, I realised I wanted to be around for them. And when I did reach 50, with no serious health conditions thankfully, my attitude towards life had totally changed.

“The first big change was that I signed up to be a kidney donor. Then one time I had a coughing fit in front of a friend, and I remember him saying I looked like I was going to pass out. My face was bright red, I was coughing and spluttering, and I struggled to recover and catch my breath afterwards.

“At that point, I thought: Why am I spending my hard-earned money on something that kills me? If I’m willing to change my life by donating a kidney, then I should give quitting a go.I didn’t think I’d be successful at first. I started off trying a couple of different stop smoking medications, but they weren’t for me. “So, I decided to buy a mountain bike. I was two weeks into quitting, and was feeling pretty grumpy and irritable. Instead of sitting and stewing on the fact that I wasn’t smoking, I’d go out for a ride instead. That was the real turning point. “The first few times on the bike my breathing was horrendous, but it was getting better and I could feel in my lungs that my fitness was improving week on week. I was breathing easier, getting better breaths of air in, coughing spells were getting shorter and shorter. I could physically feel the benefits of not having cigarettes, and I was doing something active that got me away from my cravings and out of my head. I now go out for long journeys on the bike with friends. “When it comes to other benefits, my sense of taste and smell definitely improved, and so did my bank balance! All the money that I would’ve spent on smoking is still there. And looking back it was a lot. I’d go through a pack a day at the minimum, spending around £50 a week. That’s £3,000 a year!” With quitting support and loads of free tools to quit like the new Stoptober app, it is easier than ever to join the 2.3 million others who have made a quit attempt with the campaign since it launched a decade ago in 2012.[i]

In the North East smoking rates have fallen from 22.1% adults smoking in 2012[ii] – then around 459,000 adults, down to 15.3% of adults smoking – around 325,000 people – a fall of around 134,000 fewer adults smoking.[iii]

However, over 6 million adults in England still smoke[iv], and it remains the leading preventable cause of premature death[v], causing almost 75,000 deaths a year[vi].

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “It’s fantastic to see quitters like Deborah and Graham benefitting so much from being smokefree and getting behind the Stoptober campaign.

“The North East has seen massive progress over the last decade with fewer adults and children smoking. Most smokers wish they had never started and do not want their own children to smoke. However, smoking is still our biggest cause of avoidable illness and death and has killed over 113,000 people in the North East since the start of the Millennium.

“We want others to be inspired by the experiences of people like Deborah and Graham and never ever give up on quitting smoking or think it is too late – no matter when you quit, it brings important health benefits at any age.” Search ‘Stoptober’ now for a full range of quitting support options such as the free NHS Quit Smoking App or find your local stop smoking service. Stoptober is based on research that if a smoker can make it to 28 days smoke free, they are five times more likely to quit for good. The campaign first launched in 2012.

10 top tips to help you quit smoking from stop smoking expert Louise Ross*

  1. List your reasons to quit

Cost, health, family, the future – whatever the reasons, keep reminding yourself why you decided to quit. Make a list to read when you need support. You can do this on the Stoptober app.

  1. Tell people you're quitting

Quitting smoking is easier with people supporting you, so let family and friends know you're planning to quit. Ask them to check in on you and help distract you if cravings strike.

  1. Remember what has worked

Don't be put off if you've tried to quit before – you'll have learnt a lot from that experience. Write down what worked well and keep a record of your progress. Create a free Personal Quit Plan to find what is best for you this time.

  1. Use stop smoking aids

Stop smoking aids can really help with managing cravings and other tobacco withdrawal symptoms and increase your chances of quitting successfully compared to willpower alone. From prescription tablets to nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) and e-cigarettes, your local stop smoking service, GP or pharmacy team can help you find the mix that's right for you.

  1. Have a plan

If you have a potentially stressful event, like a wedding or important day at work, plan what you will do if you're tempted to smoke. If you're using an e-cigarette or NRT, make sure you have them with you.

  1. Change your routine

List your smoking triggers and think about how to avoid them. If you usually smoke at certain times of the day – after food, with a coffee or after putting the kids to bed – decide ahead what to do instead of lighting up.

  1. Keep busy

When a craving comes, go for a walk, play a game on your mobile or phone a friend to keep busy until it passes. And if you’re using NRT or an e-cigarette, use it as much as you need to keep the cravings at bay.

  1. Exercise away the urge

Physical activity may help reduce your nicotine cravings. When you have the urge to smoke, do something active instead – you could go to the gym or for a swim, or do a little gentle exercise such as a short walk.

  1. Learn from others who have quit

Everyone's quitting journey is different but you're never alone. Join the Facebook group for inspiration, support

and advice from others who have quit or are trying to quit.

  1. Remember, not a single puff

Don't forget to throw away all your cigarettes before you start. Remember, there is never "just one".


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