Drop-in sessions are being held across the North East for smokers eager to quit their habits with the support of a specialist advisor. Health reporter JANE PICKEN finds out how they are making a massive difference.
A FUN-PACKED holiday is in store for smoke-free couple Roweena and Graeme Bassett, after quitting their habits saved them a staggering £80 each a week.
Since giving up an average of 30 cigarettes a day two weeks ago, the couple have noticed their health as well as their bank balance improve and are planning a getaway as a reward.
But Roweena and Graeme, from North Shields, credit local Saturday sessions with specialist NHS stop-smoking advisers as their key to quitting, as the support and free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) the meetings offer have been invaluable.
The sessions are held across Tyneside, known as Drop in 2 Quit in Gateshead, South Tyneside and Wearside, and as Join To Quit in the north of Tyne area, and people do not need an appointment to attend.
Organised by local NHS stop-smoking services, which are run by primary care trusts, they aim to help local smokers successfully give up their habits before smoking is banned in enclosed public spaces and workplaces on July 1.
Each week stop-smoking specialists will give advice about NRT products, give counselling-style support to struggling smokers and monitor quitters’ carbon monoxide levels.
“I really knew I was ready to quit as smoking had become like a chore and I definitely didn’t enjoy it any more,” said office administrator Roweena, 35, who has smoked for around 22 years.
“Graeme and I had also been painting the ceilings at home and noticed they were yellow with the smoke, which was disgusting.
“We’ve been going since the sessions started around one month ago and we’ve found having a one-stop shop like that is a really good idea.
“I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 18, but since I stopped I’ve noticed I don’t use my inhaler as much and my breathing is better. My skin also instantly looked so much brighter.”
The sessions have also given Roweena and Graeme important advice about beating the cravings, with tips including going for a walk or drinking a glass of water to distract the need for a cig.
And thanks to the sessions Roweena receives free nicotine patches and microtabs each week, with Graeme using nicotine gum and patches to get him through.
“I’m finding it a lot easier than I imagined,” explained former insulation engineer Graeme, 34, who has smoked for around 17 years. “Now we’re forgetting about cigarettes and realising we don’t need them.
“Before giving up I could barely run – I’d get so out of breath.
“Since giving up I can take the dogs for a walk and just about keep up.
“The good thing about the sessions is that a lot of the stop-smoking advisers at the sessions are former smokers and so they know exactly what you’re going through.”
New research from the NHS Smokefree campaign shows that the July 1 ban will be a big incentive to quit, with 32% of smokers in the North East saying it will help them to stop smoking.
And in the last nine months 30,351 people set a quit date with their local NHS stop-smoking service in the North East, with 14,074 successfully quitting at four weeks – a success rate of 46%.
One of the stop-smoking specialists who has helped countless smokers quit, including Graeme and Roweena, is Anne Beattie.
“The sessions have been really successful and the first one we held attracted around 50 people,” said Anne. “I think people find them very non-threatening.
“Seeing smokers weekly in the first four weeks dramatically improves their chances of quitting. But people need to think about why they’re quitting and then plan a quit date.
“It might also be helpful to make a list of reasons why you’re quitting and if you feel like a cigarette go back to that list.
“Once you’ve stopped, staying smoke-free is hard and that is where the sessions come in.”
Where to get help
EACH area in the region has a team of specialist stop-smoking advisers, there to help any smokers and give out information about the Join In 2 Quit Sessions. Their contact numbers are:
Newcastle (0191) 219 5111
North Tyneside (0191) 219 5111
Northumberland (01670) 813 135
Gateshead (0191) 283 1145
South Tyneside (0191) 283 1145
Sunderland (0191) 529 7166.
Drop in to quit
FAST-TRACK stop-smoking sessions are being held in Gateshead, South Tyneside, Washington and Sunderland in the coming weeks.
Smokers who want to give up can register at one of the local Drop in 2 Quit events at four special registration sessions at each venue.
After registering at one of the sessions, clients are encouraged to return to the same venue for three further weekly visits.
The sessions are free and open to all patients aged 18 and over who are registered with a GP in Gateshead, South Tyneside or Wearside.
Those who drop in will be offered free nicotine replacement therapy products, specialist health checks and personalised advice and support.
Gateshead Drop in 2 Quit sessions will be held at Trinity Church, on the town’s high street, from 6pm until 8pm on June 26, July 3, July 10 and July 17.
Drop in 2 Quit sessions for South Tyneside will take place at the Centre for the Community, Robinson Street, from 10am until 12pm, June 30, July 7 and July 14. Washington’s Drop in 2 Quit sessions will take place at the Galleries Health Centre from 10am to 12pm on June 30, July 7 and July 14. Sunderland’s sessions will be held at the Steels Social Club, Pallion, from 7pm to 9pm, on June 28, July 5 and July 12.