New NHS campaign raises awareness of invisible killer
Sep 5, 2005 - 11:22:38 PM

Sixty per cent of smokers go ahead and smoke without asking for permission, despite the fact that most non-smokers mind if other people are smoking nearby, according to new research(1) launched today by the NHS 'Don't Give Up Giving Up campaign'.

The survey marks the launch of new NHS ads raising awareness of the health risks of secondhand smoke to adults. The poll shows that 21 per cent of non-smokers still don't feel comfortable asking somebody not to smoke near them or in their own home. This is despite the fact that continued exposure to secondhand smoke puts non-smokers at a 24 per cent increased risk of lung cancer and a 25 per cent increased risk of heart disease(2).

The adverts, which highlight the fact that 'Secondhand smoke is a killer' also demonstrate that exposure to secondhand smoke makes breathing problems worse for asthma sufferers.

This is the first time the campaign has addressed the issue of secondhand smoke in relation to adults, and within a home environment. According to a recent report(3), 95 per cent of estimated deaths from secondhand smoke are due to exposure in the home. Previous NHS campaigns have addressed the issue of smoking around children and helped to raise awareness of the fact that it can be harmful for children to be in a room where somebody has recently smoked even if the room appears not to be smoky, as 85 per cent of smoke is invisible and odourless.

Caroline Flint, Public Health Minister said:

"It is clear that both smokers and non-smokers don't appreciate the full dangers of secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke contains around 4,000 different chemicals, including more than 50 known cancer-causing substances, such as arsenic, formaldehyde and ammonia(4). By ignoring these facts and smoking around others they are putting them at serious risk of increased disease. This campaign is designed to show that it's often the places we feel safest that put us at the greatest risk, such as relaxing at home in front of the television.

"We are hoping that this campaign will give smokers an excellent reason to quit smoking - to protect their families, friends and colleagues. By arming everyone with the facts about the very real dangers of secondhand smoke we are providing people another motivation to give up for good."

The television advert will show a group of family and friends relaxing at home watching TV, where one person is smoking. As the advert progresses, the smoke moves around the group, snaking round necks, revealing the long term damage it can cause and then forming a menacing, evil face that looms above the assembled group. It carries the messages that 'Secondhand smoke can restrict the oxygen around your heart, causing it to fail' and 'It increases your family's chance of getting heart disease by 25 per cent'. New print and radio advertising will also be launched.

Christine Owens, Head of Tobacco Control, The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation said:

"The message of these ads couldn't be clearer - secondhand smoke is a killer. Each year in the UK, secondhand smoke in the home is estimated to account for thousands of deaths(3). Like smoking, secondhand smoke is a proven cause of both lung cancer and heart disease. It is estimated that more than 2000 lung cancer deaths can be attributed to exposure to secondhand smoke. This campaign is a major step towards increasing public awareness of these dangers."

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