SmokeFree Norfolk urges public to stop smoking

Reporter Sabah Meddings, right, has her photo analysed by software to show what she would look like at the age of 60 as a...

Reporter Sabah Meddings, right, has her photo analysed by software to show what she would look like at the age of 60 as a smoker. With her is Katie McGoldrick, team leader for Smoke Free Norfolk, Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

A hard-hitting anti-smoking campaign was launched by health chiefs after it emerged Norwich has the highest smoking rate in the East of England.

Officials from SmokeFree Norfolk showed shoppers what they'd look like in 30 years' time, if they carried on smoking, using new, age progression computer software.

They warned that the life expectancy of smokers could be 10 years less than non-smokers.

Latest figures show that Norwich is home to about 35,000 smokers out of a population of about 133,000. At 26.3pc, this is higher than the county average of 20pc and the East of England at 19.6pc.

In light of these recent results, SmokeFree Norfolk offered advice and support to smokers, while showing the shocking damage smoking could have on them, to mark No Smoking Day.

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The new software shows how smoking affects the ageing process, resulting in a dramatic difference between smokers and non-smokers.

Katie McGoldrick, SmokeFree Norfolk leader, said: 'Anything that highlights to people the effects of smoking is valuable. It's a way of illustrating the impact of smoking.

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'We can't easily show you your insides, but you can see where you're headed to on the outside with this software. The element of shock scares people, but the message is that it is not too late to change.'

In the last 11 months, 3,019 people have successfully quit for at least four weeks after support from SmokeFree Norfolk.

Health officials hope that events such as No Smoking Day will encourage smokers to start the journey to being smoke free, and ask for help.

Ms McGoldrick added: 'Until recently there was very little help available, and certainly no NHS support.

'Research shows people need support to make changes, and quitting is now an option.'

'No Smoking Day, 'Stoptober' and other events provide opportunities for people to quit.'

Lindi Staunton, a respiratory specialist for Norfolk Community Health and Care at the NHS, said: 'No Smoking Day is part of my job, I do it every day.

'Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the second highest cause of hospital admissions after heart disease. We only find people with COPD after they have been admitted to hospital, but there are many more sufferers who we don't know about. Talking to smokers on No Smoking Day will help us to find these people. I don't know if events such as No Smoking Day will make people stop smoking, but it will at least provide a warning signal and make them think.'

Smokers were told of the benefits of quitting. Samantha Cooper, 41, of Norwich, said: 'Smoking seems to help me and I have tried to stop on my own, but I didn't realise support was available.'

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