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Covid-19 adds impetus to annual ‘Stoptober’ quit smoking campaign

Thursday, October 1, marks the start of Stoptober an annual campaign to encourage smokers to quit for the month, and preferably for good.

The month of October is used as research shows that if a smoker quits smoking for 28 days they are five time more likely to not smoke again.

The campaign is spearheaded locally by Daya Dewfall and Emily Lopez from the Health Promotion Department.

While Covid-19 means that the public health promotion department are unable to engage with the public in person via a stall they are ensuring the message that support is there.

“We are promoting on our website, on social media and we are giving out the number for our smoking cessation clinic,” said Ms Dewfall.

“We are encouraging people to call them and make an appointment as there is a high success rate in stopping smoking if you use the smoke cessation service.”

“You can call on 52441, make an appointment and you will be seen by a nurse practitioner and you will be supported on your journey and they will discuss with you options of how you can stop smoking.”

“It could be the patches or it could be the tablets.”

In addition, the clinic will carry out regular carbon monoxide measurements where they can show smokers the higher levels of carbon monoxide they have and how it is decreasing as they quit smoking.

“That has been quite effective because people can actually see the difference as levels come down,” said Ms Dewfall.

It does not matter if you have used the smoking cessation clinic previously and have started smoking again. The health promotion department feel that, “it is never too late to try again.”

“We always encourage people to try again,” said Ms Lopez.

They both feel that the support given by the clinic means there is a higher success rate in not just completing 28 days smoke free but also giving up smoking for life.

There are no statistics in Gibraltar on the ages and gender of smokers but most people will know someone of every age category and gender that smokes.

In addition, the number of people who are giving up smoking across the Rock is not available. However, the clinic states that it has seen an increase year on year of people contacting them in a bid to stop smoking.

“They have had a 66% success rate,” said Ms Dewfall on the clinic.

“Saying that the Covid stress could of worked either way. People may think I am really worried and because of stress will smoke more and others think well maybe I should stop.”

While the focus is to get people off cigarettes for their own personal health, the department are what they described as ‘hitting a ceiling’ when getting the message of how bad second hand smoke is to others.

“I see a lot of parents smoking walking with children next to them, or people with dogs walking and smoking on top of them. That impacts their health as well,” said Ms Lopez.

“People do not think of dogs as being part of that recipient of second hand smoke,” said Ms Dewfall.

Adding, “and there is a third hand smoke which stays on your furnishing for even longer. It stays in the carpet, it stays in the upholstery.”

Ms Lopez highlights that quitting smoking at the same time as someone else is easier than doing it alone as you can support each other.

“This is why if you do it in October, you know you are joining thousands of other people who are also making the jump,” said Ms Lopez.

Ms Dewfall notes that if someone was to fall off the wagon they may beat themselves up over it.

“You could say oh I am going to start again, but if you have the support systems in place, tell your family ‘even if I do fall off can you please encourage me to continue quitting’,” said Ms Dewfall.

“And, then just get back on the horse, don’t let it derail you.”

Covid and smokers

Covid-19 affects the lungs and airways, two parts of the body that are damaged by smoking. Smoking also impacts a person’s immune system making it harder for them to fight infections.

Healthcare workers are concerned that the constant hand to face actions from smoking increase a person’s risk of contracting viruses.

It is not only smokers who could be affected by Covid but also people affected by second hand smoke is also a concern for the promotion team.

“That is the areosolisation concern,” said Ms Dewfall.

According to public health England, people, especially children, who are exposed to second hand smoke are also at increased risk of harm to their lungs and heart.

Effects of quitting smoking

On the first day you quit your pulse rate will return to normal within just 20 minutes. After eight hours, oxygen levels will start to recover as carbon monoxide levels plummet.

After two days a person’s sense of smell and taste will start to return and in your lungs starts to clear of mucus.

By day three breathing will have improved and energy levels increased. Nicotine withdrawals will start to kick in.

Within one to three months lungs start to heal and their capacity can improve by up to 10 percent. In addition, circulation will have improved.

One year later the risk of heart disease will now be half that of a smoker, with the risk declining over time.

After ten years the risk of lung cancer drops to half that of a current smoker and after 15 years the risk of a heart attack will be the same as someone who have never smoked tobacco.

In addition to the above Ms Dewfall points out you not only save in terms of your health but also financially.