Mr. Doherty was speaking as the HLCA and the Public Health Agency joined forces to take No Smoking Month into as many communities as possible.
He said: “Smoking is a big deal for smokers, their families and wider social circles. It has a major effect on physical health putting smokers and those living with them at heightened risk of cancers, heart disease and stroke. Not only that, it also has a major impact on the pocket with smokers often shelling out more than £5,000 per year to feed the habit. Quitting is difficult. Quitting on your own is even harder. If you receive assistance and support while you quit, it is proven you are more likely to succeed.
“We recognised the need for a cessation programme to recommence as things open up in our communities. We will be working in partnership with our local community pharmacies to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to ‘Make March their month to Quit’.”
Mr. Doherty said HLCA staff will be available to advise smokers how to convert their ‘ash into cash’. The HLCA estimates someone on 20 cigarettes a day could save £4,346 over a year. To put that in perspective someone who has smoked for 50 years would have seen £217,308 go up in smoke.
“Imagine what you could do with that money, the holidays, the family trips and the memories you could make.
“The Alliance has prioritised smoking as an area of special attention, especially after the impact that COVID 19 had on the people and the community. We know that smokers are at higher risk of COVID-19 and the lasting impact of this. So as a result we are coming to a community near you. Various Healthy Living Centres will be hosting Stop Smoking Programmes, helping you to kick the habit once and for all.
“Keep an eye out in your local community for various events and information sessions.
“This year we have planned several events in four of the five Trust areas in the North with engagements taking place in shopping centres, shops, pharmacies, youth clubs, schools and community centres as far apart as Loughguile and Irvingstown, Castlederg and Downpatrick and East Belfast and Derry,” said Mr. Doherty.
Colette Rogers, PHA strategic lead for tobacco, said: “We are encouraging people to use No Smoking Month as an opportunity to begin their quit journey and improve their health. With the recent introduction of new legislation to protect children from second hand smoke in cars, maybe you’ve already been thinking about trying to quit. No Smoking Month could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to set a quit date and quit for good.”
Local Healthy Living Centre, Bogside & Brandywell Health Forum, will be delivering the stop smoking programme.
Aileen Mc Guinness, director said: “We are again able to support the community to quit!
“We know how hard this can be for all and want to make sure that people feel supported along their journey.
“This is a programme that will do that.”
The programme officially started on Wednesday, March 23, 2022 in The Old Library Trust.