30/12/2013 - Permalink

New campaign highlights the toxic effect of smoking on the heart, brain and lungs

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Today Public Health England launches a new Smokefree Health Harms campaign highlighting the impact and serious damage that smoking causes the body.
The new campaign, supported by TV advertising, brings to life the toxic cycle of dirty blood caused by inhaling the dangerous chemicals in cigarettes, including arsenic and cyanide flowing through the body and damaging major organs.  The chemicals move through the heart, the lungs and into the bloodstream, finally damaging cells in the brain.
Along with the heart and lungs, the brain is particularly vulnerable to these toxins, leading to a faster decline in functionality and an increased risk of stroke and dementia.
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that smokers are twice as likely to die from a stroke than non-smokers. Smoking can cause the arteries to narrow which, in turn, increases the likelihood of blood clots that can lead to a stroke.
Studies also suggest that smoking accelerates cognitive decline in men  and women  leading smokers to experience poorer memory and a greater decline in reasoning in later life.
The risk of dementia, along with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer are further increased when smoking is combined with any or all of heavy drinking, poor diet, lack of exercise and high blood pressure 

The new campaign will be live from today (30 December) with support, advice and a range of tools available for anyone looking to stop smoking.
Anyone looking to quit can visit www.nhs.uk/smokefree to receive free support tools and find details of where they can get professional advice through their local NHS stop smoking service.

Dr Lola Abudu, Consultant in Public Health at PHE West Midlands Centre said:

“Two thirds of smokers in the West Midlands want to quit. This campaign highlights why they should quit. We all know that smoking can cause cancer but less people are aware of the potential for it to cause dementia or a stroke, both long term conditions that can devastate the lives of the sufferer as well as their families.

I urge all smokers to make a fresh start in January 2014 and give up smoking for good. There are now more ways of quitting than ever before so go to http://www.nhs.uk/smokefree and find one that suits you”

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said:

“We know about the serious effect smoking has on the heart and lungs but smokers need to be aware of how much potential damage is being done to the brain and other vital organs through toxins in cigarettes entering the blood.
“Smoking is the major cause of premature death, with one in two smokers dying prematurely from smoking related diseases, and it is extremely worrying that people still underestimate the health harms associated with it.
“However, it is not all doom and gloom for smokers looking to quit this New Year.  Within five years of stopping smoking, your risk of stroke can be reduced to the same as a lifetime non-smoker.”

Research Associate at University College London, Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson, who conducted one of the studies into cognitive function, said:

“Accelerated decline in cognitive reasoning and memory is more advanced in smokers, with one of our studies at UCL showing it to be nearly 38% faster in persistent male smokers compared to non-smokers.
“The decline in the brain’s cognitive powers is naturally seen with ageing but there are a number of identifiable risk factors, including smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, which can be associated with an accelerated rate of decline. Healthy behaviours in midlife may help preserve cognitive function into early old age, but all smokers should consider quitting to help protect their brain from serious long term harm.”

 Joe Korner, Director of External Affairs at Stroke Association, said:

“It is well known that smoking harms our health but the link between smoking and stroke is less well known. Stroke is a major cause of death and adult disability in the UK and you are twice as likely to have a stroke if you smoke. The more you smoke, the more your risk increases.

“Stopping smoking is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of stroke; after five years of giving up, your risk of stroke can be reduced to that of a non-smoker. We welcome the NHS Smokefree Health Harms campaign to tackle this serious issue.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing for Public Health England, said:

“More than eight million people smoke in England, and with half of long-term smokers dying prematurely from a smoking-related disease, highlighting the unseen damaging effect smoking has on the body’s major organs provides a real motivation for people to stop.

“As well as the impact smoking has on the brain, smokers are also more likely to have a stroke, so this hard-hitting campaign will, I hope, help smokers consider quitting.  There is a wealth of health and personal benefits available to those who successfully stop and help can be sought through the full range of Smokefree support, which includes face-to-face advice, Smokefree app, Quit Kit, plus email and text programmes.”


Further information

  • The full range of Smokefree support – which includes face-to-face advice, Smokefree app, Quit Kit, email and text programmes – can be accessed via the Smokefree website:  www.nhs.uk/smokefree
  • The Stroke Association’s Helpline (0303 303 3100) provides information and support on stroke. More information can be found at www.stroke.org.uk
  • West Midlands – Smoking prevalence per 100,000 of the population is as follows:
    Birmingham   19.31 %
    Coventry   18.18 %
    Dudley    19.08 %
    Herefordshire, County of 17.42 %
    Sandwell   22.88 %
    Shropshire   17.38 %
    Solihull    13.25 %
    Staffordshire   19.13 %
    Stoke on Trent  25.34 %
    Telford and Wrekin  22.38 %
    Walsall    22.72 %
    Warwickshire   19.07 %
    Wolverhampton  22.16 %
    Worcestershire  18.43 %
  • In 2010/11 among adults aged 35 and over, there were approximately 1.5 million hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of a disease that can be caused by smoking (NHS Information centre) http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB07019
  • The UCL Whitehall study was based on 5,099 men and 2,137 women. For the data behind nearly 38%, please refer to Table 3 in the above paper.
  • Cognitive function is an umbrella term for different mental skills that overlap: reasoning, fluency, memory, vocabulary etc.
  • For more information on PHE visit www.gov.uk/phe or follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk
  • Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health.        
  • Public Health England West Midlands Press Office: Tel:  0121 232 9223/  07786 894 960 Out of hours telephone:  07834 311393