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Dont Wait aims to inspire thousands of smokers this summer

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"It's never too late to quit smoking" – that is the message from a North East doctor hoping to inspire tens of thousands of smokers to quit this summer in a new campaign.


Dr Ruth Sharrock, a respiratory consultant, is the face of the Don't Wait campaign giving new hope to smokers that they can quit and see a massive benefit in how they feel, even if they have smoked for many years.


Some smokers are put off by previous quit attempts and often wrongly think any damage is already done  - however evidence shows how the body can recover and quitting can bring benefits to almost anyone.


Medical research shows the lungs can even 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.


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: "We know that some smokers can feel pessimistic about their chances of success but there is so much to be gained from quitting.


"2020 saw a surge in quit attempts and an incredible two out of five smokers in the North East took a positive step towards quitting as a result of seeing the Don't Wait campaign. This 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. Even if you have quit before, just keep trying until you succeed.


"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 enjoy life with their children and grandchildren. It is never too late."


Singer Deborah Butler, 49, from Newcastle, is lead singer with Newcastle-based soul band The Odels and quit smoking in December 2020 ahead of turning 50. She was helped by Newcastle Stop Smoking + Service and has found she has much more energy and can breathe more easily, which helps when she takes the stage.


She said: "I was totally addicted to smoking, as it was the first thing I thought of when I got up in the morning. When I look back, I don't think I realised I was addicted.


"I've now been smokefree for over six months and I have a totally different lifestyle – I swim every morning before work, and I have much more energy. I also changed my morning routine, by buying myself some nice coffee and a cafetiere, so I enjoy having a relaxing cup of coffee in the morning rather than a cigarette. I've also noticed that I have much more lung power when I perform, which is brilliant."


Another quitter is dad Graham Jones, 54, from Gateshead, who smoked for over 45 years but quit in 2020 after signing up to be a kidney donor. Graham found his stride by going out regularly on his bike to beat the cravings.


He said: "The first big change was that I signed up to be a kidney donor and the nurses said that recovery can be affected by smoking. 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.


"But 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. At that point, I thought: Why am I spending my hard-earned money on something that kills me?"


While for most quitting can bring huge benefits, shocking new figures using Public Health England data estimate that around 113,400 people have died from avoidable smoking related illness in the North East since 2000.


The campaign launches on Wednesday, June 23 and features two adverts with Dr Ruth Sharrock:


Breaking terrible news: a hard-hitting film in which Dr Sharrock explains how every week she has to break terrible news and tell people they have lung cancer. The film also features real footage of a lung cancer found in a Bronchoscopy.


Never too late: a positive, inspiring film in which Dr Ruth talks about seeing incredible benefits among people who have quit smoking and find a new lease of life to spend with children and grandchildren.