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Smoking cessation health centre

New year quit smoking campaign

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

28th December 2012 - The government is launching a quit smoking advertising campaign designed to shock, the first in England in eight years.

Health risks are being featured because the Department of Health says more than a third of smokers still think the risks to health from smoking are greatly exaggerated.

In a statement, chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies says: "It is extremely worrying that people still underestimate the serious health harms associated with smoking.

"We want smokers to understand that each packet of cigarettes increases their risk of cancer."

Shock tactics

The £2.7 million TV, poster and online campaign shows a cancer tumour growing on a cigarette as it is smoked.


Research from the University of California in the US published in the journal Psychological Science earlier this year suggests that seeing advertisements about smoking that are designed to shock can be recorded in neuron activity in the brain. Neural activity in the medial prefrontal region of the brain associated with individual behaviour change was seen in heavy smokers who planned to quit.

In the eight years since the last major quit smoking health campaign, the Department of Health says more than 570,000 people have died and more than three million people are estimated to have been admitted to hospital with a disease related to smoking.

Don't give up trying

In October, the Stoptober campaign saw more than 270,000 people sign up to quit.

New research for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer suggests it takes the average smoker four attempts before they successfully quit smoking. Nearly one in 10 (9%) have tried 10 or more times.

Researchers questioned 6,271 current or former smokers. 60% of UK smokers are planning to quit smoking this January.

Almost one in five (19%) of current smokers say their last attempt to give up smoking failed in under 24 hours.

Optimism was not high about future success either, with 58% thinking they're next attempt to give up will fail.


The campaign advises the eight million smokers in England to turn to the NHS for help, including picking up special 'quit kits' from pharmacies.

The campaign is supported by health groups, including Cancer Research UK. In a statement, chief executive Dr Harpal Kumar says: "Hard hitting campaigns such as this illustrate the damage caused by smoking and this can encourage people to quit or may even stop them from starting in the first place.

"We have got to reduce the impact that tobacco has on the lives of far too many people - it's not a 'lifestyle choice', it’s an addiction that creeps into people's lives and results in death and disease."

Reviewed on December 28, 2012

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