Watch: Ex-smokers speak of life after ditching cigarettes
Ex-smokers have revealed how their lives have improved since ditching the habit.
Early in the coronavirus outbreak, the UK’s chief medical adviser Professor Chris Whitty stressed “if you are going to give up smoking, this is a very good moment to do it”.
As many as one million smokers are said to have attempted to quit during the UK’s first lockdown, making 2020 one of the most successful years for ditching the habit on record.
In a video supported by the charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), ex-smokers describe how cigarettes “stole their sense of smell”, with quitting also enabling their “taste buds to return”.
Rather than being surrounded by ashtrays, they now enjoy “fresh air they can breathe in deep”.
“Begging” smokers to “put it out”, the quitters want others to “experience the freedom they’ve found”.
The video was commissioned by Southend Borough Council, featuring people who used its stop smoking service.
“I liked smoking and I’d never tried to quit before, but my sister dying from lung disease was the wake-up call I needed,” said ex-smoker Aline Clayson.
“I smoked from the age of 13, that’s over 40 years.
“At this time of year I usually have the worst cough ever, which lasts for weeks.
“It would put an awful pressure on my chest, like I’ve been doing press ups all day.
She added: “This year nothing; I can breathe freely. It’s such a relief and I know it’s because I’ve quit smoking.
“No one says it’s going to be easy but my message is: if I can do it you can too.”
Clayson quit smoking after walking past a stand on the street advertising the local stop smoking service.
“I thought ‘now’s the time’,” she said.
“I’d recommend anyone to do the same; the help they gave me made all the difference.”
As well as the health benefits, Clayson is also saving “so much money”.
“Smoking used to cost me at least £12 [$16] a day,” she said.
‘Smoking makes the impact of coronavirus worse’
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, stop smoking services have largely gone virtual.
This does not appear to have dampened their effectiveness, with England’s NHS Stop Smoking Services reporting nearly two-thirds (58%) of smokers who set a quit date were successful between April and June.
“This has been a tough year, but local councils have shown they are more than up to the challenge, showing tremendous commitment to their local communities during the pandemic,” said Deborah Arnott, from Ash.
“Stop Smoking Services have continued to operate, despite councils having to pretty much rebuild them from scratch to provide socially distanced support delivered remotely.
“If you are planning to quit for 2021, search ‘smokefree’ and find your local service; it can make all the difference.”
Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, previously said: “It is abundantly clear from the research into previous coronaviruses that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse.”
The coronavirus behind the ongoing pandemic is one of seven strains of a virus class that are known to infect humans.
Smoking can damage the lungs, reducing their function, as well as suppressing the immune system.
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