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Don’t Wait – make 2021 the year you quit smoking for good

25 June 2021

It’s never too late to quit smoking – that’s the message from a North East doctor in a major new quit smoking campaign – and the benefits begin within 20 minutes.

Dr Ruth Sharrock, a respiratory consultant from Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, is hoping to inspire thousands of people across the North East to stop this summer. Ruth is the face of the Don’t Wait campaign and is aiming to give new hope to smokers that they can quit and see a massive benefit in how they feel.

Some smokers can be put off quitting by previous unsuccessful attempts but research also shows that middle aged and older smokers who have smoked for years can assume that the damage is done when it comes to the health harms of smoking     – however the fact is quitting can bring benefits to almost anyone.

Smoking kills around 15 people a day in the North East but quitting can bring improvements to most people at any age. Research shows the lungs have an ability to heal themselves and repair some of the damage caused by smoking – but only if you stop completely  . Improvements have been seen even in patients who had smoked a pack a day for 40 years before giving up.

Stopping smoking can also reduce stress and improve mental health with the benefits seen after just six weeks  , something which is sure to motivate many to quit after a dreadful year in which worry levels have soared.

After 20 minutes
Your pulse rate starts to return to normal.

After 8 hours  
Your oxygen levels are recovering, and the level of harmful carbon monoxide in your blood will have reduced by half.

After 48 hours
All carbon monoxide is flushed out. Your lungs are clearing out mucus and your senses of taste and smell are improving.

After 72 hours
If you notice that breathing feels easier, it’s because your bronchial tubes have started to relax. Also your energy will be increasing.

After 2-12 weeks
Blood will be pumping through to your heart and muscles much better because your circulation will have improved.

After 6 weeks
Smokers who stop have better mental health than those who continue to smoke. The study found that benefits could be seen as soon as six weeks and were maintained even a number of years after stopping.

After 3-9 months
Any coughs, wheezing or breathing problems will be improving as your lung function increases.

After 1 year
Great news! Your risk of heart attack will have halved compared with a smoker’s.

After 10 years
More great news! Your risk of death from lung cancer will have halved compared with a smoker’s.

Smoking weakens the immune system, leaving people more vulnerable to infectious diseases, as well as causing heart disease, lung disease, cancer and stroke.

As well as reducing the risks of a serious smoking-related disease, evidence shows that quitting smoking can reduce anxiety, depression and stress  and leave people feeling happier in the long term .

It was estimated that a million people nationally quit smoking during the first lockdown last year and hundreds of thousands have maintained that success, with 2020 having the highest rates of successful quitting since 2007.

Cllr Bernadette Oliphant, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “We are supporting the Don’t Wait campaign to encourage more people in Gateshead to quit smoking.

“Most smokers would like to be able to stop, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve not succeeded before. The main thing is to not be deterred but try again.”

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Two out of five smokers in the North East did something positive towards quitting as a result of seeing the Don’t Wait campaign last year, which is why we are running these important messages for smokers again this summer.

“Smoking is still one of our biggest causes of death, disease, hospital admissions and health inequalities in the North East, killing 15 people a day. It is vital we encourage every smoker to do something amazing, keep trying and make 2021 the year to quit smoking.”

Dr Ruth Sharrock, respiratory consultant and Clinical Lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, said: “If you smoke the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and extend your life expectancy is to stop smoking.

“The benefits of quitting are real. As well as reducing the risk of serious disease it can make you feel so much better, give you more energy and help you to breathe more easily.

“Even among people who have smoked for decades, it can give people a new lease of life and the energy to get out and play with their grandchildren. It is never too late.”

More ways to quit than ever

Quitting smoking can be easier and less stressful with the right support. Several different treatments are available from shops, pharmacies and on prescription to help you beat your addiction and reduce withdrawal symptoms:

  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy provides you with a low level of nicotine, without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals in tobacco smoke. It can help reduce withdrawal effects, such as bad moods and cravings which may occur when you stop smoking. Using a patch PLUS a faster-acting type of NRT like mouth spray, gum, lozenge or inhalator gives you a better chance of stopping smoking than using one type of NRT alone.
  • Varenicline (brand name Champix) is a medicine that works in 2 ways. It reduces cravings for nicotine like NRT, but it also blocks the rewarding and reinforcing effects of smoking. Evidence suggests it’s the most effective medicine for helping people stop smoking.
  • Bupropion (brand name Zyban) is a medicine originally used to treat depression, but it has since been found to help people quit smoking. It’s not clear exactly how it works, but it’s thought to have an effect on the parts of the brain involved in addictive behaviour.
  • E-cigarettes allow people to inhale nicotine without most of the harmful effects of smoking, as the vapour contains no tar or carbon monoxide. Research has found that e-cigarettes can help you give up smoking, so you may want to try them rather than the medications listed above. E-cigarettes are not currently available on prescription, although vaping is much cheaper than smoking.

Research has shown that all these methods can be effective. Importantly, evidence shows that they are most effective if used alongside support from an NHS stop smoking service.

To get started, contact your pharmacy, GP or to find local support and free online quitting tools visit

Smokefree savings

  • One week’s savings – around £36.
  • Two weeks’ savings – around £72.
  • Three weeks’ savings – around £109 would pay for a family food shop.
  • Four weeks’ savings of £144 would buy a premium Netflix subscription for a year [Source: Netflix].
  • If you want to get fit and active as a family, six months’ savings of £949 could buy two children’s bikes and two adults’ bikes [Source: Halfords].
  • £1,899 saved in a year could give you a deposit on a new car, or a trip away
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