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Make 2021 the year you quit

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A North East doctor is making a powerful New Year plea to smokers – make 2021 the year you quit and don't wait to have regrets.

It comes as new figures show that:

  • quit success rates this year among those who tried (21.7%) were higher than at any point since 2007
  • nearly half (48%) of all 18-24 year old smokers made a quit attempt in the last year. this is believed to be the highest quit rate since 2007 when the age of sale was increased to 18 and England introduced comprehensive indoor smokefree legislation


Data released earlier in 2020 shows the COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in quitting with around million people making a quit during the first lock down.


Respiratory Consultant, Dr Ruth Sharrock has spent the last 9 months caring for patients with Covid and has seen the challenges colleagues and patients have faced in fighting this. She said: "I want to help everyone look forward to a more positive 2021, where we all reflect on the way our lifestyles impact on our health and fitness, and ability to cope with infections and make some really positive changes.


"For smokers – the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and extend your life expectancy is to stop smoking. I would urge smokers to make contact with stop smoking services to maximise their chances of success, and for smoker's families to really help motivate and support them. None of us want our children to become smokers – we need to create a smokefree world for them to grow up in and be around to see them enjoy it."


Smokers are being encouraged to put their lungs first, strengthen their immune system and quit for New Year. Dr Ruth is the face of the "Don't Wait" campaign from Fresh and the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System which launches again on TV from December 28, in time for New Year quit attempts.


Someone quitting smoking now can expect to save around £1,899 by this time next December – enough for a deposit on a new car, towards a holiday, or for a day trip to Lapland next with children or grandchildren.


Dr Sharrock added:"2020 has been a dreadful year for most of us. But we need to remember that even when we do go back to normal, smoking will kill nearly 80,000 people in England every year - around 15 people a day here in the North East.


"Each week in my job I have to break terrible news because of smoking; telling people and their families they've got lung cancer and have to watch as their world falls apart.


"It's an awful situation to be in, one most people would dread, and I can see people taken over with emotions and regretting that they didn't stop sooner.


"I am urging smokers to make 2021 the year you quit and never look back– please do anything you can to avoid the worry, having to tell loved ones or finding yourself in that situation."


She added: "It is never too late. I see some amazing outcomes when people are able to stop. We see people who are desperately unwell but when they stop they can get out to walk the dog and play with their grandkids."


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "Smoking reduces your fitness and harms your lungs, and increases the risks of cancer, heart disease and stroke.


"Hundreds of thousands of people have tried to quit smoking this year.  Don't 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."


In the North East, 8/10 smokers who saw the Don't Wait campaign in June took some form of action – with nearly 1 in 6 smokers or around 49,000 people cutting down or quitting as a result.


The campaign is backed by North East former smokers, including David Reay, 55, from Newcastle, who decided to make one last quit attempt in April after smoking for nearly 40 years, to save money and improve his health. He's now been smokefree for eight months and has inspired his partner, George Eggleston, to quit smoking too.


David, who works for a transportation company, said: "I had tried several times before using vapes, patches, and nicotine gum but nothing seemed to work. Then I heard about Champix and went to my local stop smoking service for their advice. After talking to them I realised that it's about finding a quitting aid that works for you, but you also need to want to quit. I was prescribed Champix, and it is the only thing that has worked for me."


Civil servant, George, 47, commented: "I tried Champix at the same time as David but unfortunately, I was unsuccessful. I think working from home, and the stress of what everyone was going through at the time, basically stopped me. However, after seeing how successful David has been, it spurred me on and gave me the determination to try again too. I saw how much good it was doing him I just thought I want the same, I want that for me. I'm determined this time and it has now been over six weeks."


David added: "There were a variety of reasons why I decided to quit; firstly my mother as she always used to nag me about quitting, and I used to say to her I'm going to one day. Sadly, she is no longer with us, but I know she'd be very proud. Then there was the money, as looking back I realised I have spent thousands of pounds on cigarettes over the years. We calculated we could save around £6,500 between us over a year, which is unbelievable, so we have treated ourselves by booking a holiday to the Maldives."


38-year-old Cam Walton from Ryhope quit smoking in May 2020, after her oldest daughter begged her to stop. After successfully quitting during the first national lockdown, she's encouraging others to give it a go.


Mum-of-two, Cam, said: "I was a 10-a-day smoker and managed to stop a number of times over the years, but I always started up again.


"I went upstairs one day during lockdown, to find my oldest daughter crying in her room. She was so worried about losing her mum and I promised her I would stop smoking.


"When I finished my last packet of cigarettes, that was it. I quit cold turkey – I was so determined. It also coincided with the menthol ban coming in. I was a menthol smoker and I just thought what's the point? If I couldn't buy them, it made perfect sense to quit.


"I've saved loads since quitting. The way I think of it is – I'm not wasting money on something that could kill me. I can treat the girls and buy nice things for the house. I feel better in myself, I'm exercising more and my skin and hair are noticeably better. I used to get a bad chest which has improved too. If I ever felt stressed, I had a cigarette, but now I know that I can manage much better without them.


"I think lockdown helped me to quit in many ways as I wasn't around other people smoking, so it is well and truly out of my system now and I have got into a new routine. Not smoking is my new normal – and I would urge anyone else to give quitting a go too."


In cases where smokers have struggled to stop previously, switching over totally to vaping may provide an alternative quitting method, with recent research showing e-cigarettes to be 70% more effective than nicotine replacement therapy at helping smokers to stop completely.

To get started, visit


Here are 10 reasons and tips to quit for New Year:

  1. Seize the moment. Some smokers wake up and feel "today is the day" to quit – if you feel like that go for it! New Year is a time when we remember years gone by – be around for plenty more in the future.
  2. Keep trying, even if you've not managed to quit before. Learn from past experiences. Treat previous attempts as a stepping stone rather than a failure.
  3. Think of it as a gift to your family. People worry about their loved ones smoking, especially children who don't want to lose their mum, dad or grandparent to a smoking-related illness.
  4. The winter is a time for enjoying the TV, the tree, and the lights. Do you really want to keep having to nip outside to smoke?
  5. Whether or not you enjoy New Year parties, they can be a temptation to smoke. Use the break from parties this year to stay strong and avoid smoking.
  6. We all want a happier 2021. You might think smoking helps with stress but it actually creates a cycle where cravings for nicotine kick in and makes you feel more anxious. Research has proved quitting boosts people's mood and happiness in the long term In fact evidence shows stopping can be as effective as anti-depressants in reducing depression, anxiety and stress.
  7. Very important – use a quitting aid: many smokers just stop and go cold turkey but a quitting aid gives you a better chance and can make the cravings easier to manage, whether that is Nicotine Replacement Therapy like patches or gum, or a stop smoking medication prescribed by a GP, pharmacist or other health professional. While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, it's relatively harmless. Almost all of the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic.
  8. Consider switching to vaping / electronic cigarette which can also boost your chances. In the UK, electronic cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality and while they may not be completely risk free, they carry a small fraction of the risk of smoking tobacco. Vaping does not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke. A specialist vape shop can help find the right device and liquid for you. For more detailed NHS advice about vaping, visit
  9. Get some quit coaching: Local Stop Smoking Services provide free expert advice, support and encouragement to help you stop smoking for good. Combining quit aids with expert support makes it much more likely you'll stop smoking successfully. Find your local service
  10. Get online support: why not consider free online support such as the Smokefree App or Personal Quit Plan or join the Smokefree NHS Facebook group for tips and hints from other quitters. Visit the Smokefree website where you can sign up

Look at what someone smoking 10 a day could save by quitting:

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 day trip to Lapland next year, with flights from Newcastle to enjoy snowmobiling, husky and reindeer sleigh rides, a visit to a snow igloo and a private family meeting with Santa.