Smokers across Manchester are uniting in a bid to quit their nicotine habits for ‘Stoptober’ – though rival online groups are countering it with their own pro-smoking month.
Greater Manchester has over half a million smokers and it’s the region’s biggest killer, accounting for over 4,500 deaths every year, costing the NHS £815million annually.
‘Stoptober’, which kicks off today, aims at helping smokers, two thirds of which want to quit, stop.
Last year they helped 22,000 people stop for good out of the 54,000 who took part.
Campaigners say that if you complete the 28 days smoke free you are five times more likely to stay quit and they offer a free quit kit, motivational texts and a smartphone app that lets you track your progress.
Jenny Cowell, Communications Officer of the Manchester Public Health Development Service who runs the campaign, told MM the service was there offer support to people who wanted to stop smoking and did not pressurise people to stop if they didn’t want to.
She said: “We are very keen to make sure we’re not preaching. Our service is all about offering good help and support when people want it and we know that two thirds of smokers want to quit so our service aims to help those people.
“Lots of people have their own reasons to stop smoking. ‘Stoptober’ is an opportunity to provide support for people who want to stop in Manchester.”
However Simon Clark, Director of pro smoking group FOREST, said: “It's part of a campaign to de-normalise smoking which in turn encourages intolerance towards a significant minority of the adult population.
“That may be an unintended consequence of ‘Stoptober’ but anything that encourages discrimination should come with its own health warning.”
A rival campaign called ‘Octabber’ has been set up which encourages people to smoke though Mr Clark was keen to make clear he did not endorse the campaign at all.
When MM went out to speak to people in Manchester about the campaign and its effectiveness.
Kirvanc Tutuncv, shop owner, 34, said: “I’m trying to quit but it’s very hard. I’ve bought an electronic cigarette but I still can’t stop. I think campaigns like this are a good idea and I might order a quit kit myself.”
Gareth Maybury, voice over artist, 27, said: “Margaret Thatcher ruined my town in the 80’s. We used to have a mine and steelworks now all we’ve got are fags and lock ‘ins. Don’t take that away from us.”
Mary Deans, retailer, 50, said: “I think they’re [the government] taking freedom of choice away. You’re a leper now if you smoke. It’s too expensive, that’s the main incentive to stop, not these campaigns.”
Tom Brunton, smoker, 19, said: “I think it’s a good idea. I’ve been smoking for two years now and want to quit but I haven’t got the motivation. I think this sort of program gives you the incentive you need to quit.”
Shaun Pearson, smoker, 24, said: “I like smoking. I don’t smoke heavily, about 10 a day and I’m not going to stop. I’ve been smoking for eight years and I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon.”
Are you taking part in Stoptober? Let us know in the comment box below.