Dr Andy Harris’ column: Tackle smoking habits head on

Dr Andy Harris speaking at a conference in Leeds.
Dr Andy Harris speaking at a conference in Leeds.
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As a GP in Leeds and as clinical chief officer for NHS Leeds South and East Clinical Commissioning Group, which plans and funds health services for those living in south and east Leeds, I see the effects of smoking on people’s lives on a daily basis.

The latest figures show that 79,100 nearly one fifth of deaths in adults aged 35 and over in England can be attributed to smoking.

In particular, in south and east Leeds, smoking rates are much higher than in other areas of the city – 26 per cent compared to 21 per cent in west Leeds and 17 per cent in north Leeds.

Let’s face it, there are lots of reasons why it’s a good idea to stop smoking. It affects your fitness and the quality of your skin and complexion and, over time, your health really starts to deteriorate. It’s also a big drain on your wallet

But smoking is also harmful to those around us, particularly to our families.

Nearly three quarters of children really worry that their mum or dad will die because they smoke. Your children are three times more likely to smoke when they grow up if you smoke.

Children exposed to a smoky atmosphere are more likely to suffer from breathing problems, allergies and chest infections.

There is only one way to completely protect your children and family from second-hand smoke, and that’s to make sure you have a smokefree home and car. More than 80 per cent of secondhand smoke is invisible and odourless, and contains harmful cancer-causing toxins and poisons. Smoking out of a car window or the back door is not enough to protect children from secondhand smoke.

Of course, the best way to look after everyone’s health is to quit smoking completely. In south and east Leeds there are services available to help you quit.

Those wishing to stop smoking will be offered help to do so through the full range of smoke free support – including face-to-face help and advice. Leeds NHS Stop Smoking Service is a free service open to anyone who would like to stop smoking.

Research shows that you are far more likely to be successful in stopping smoking if you combine both treatment and specialist help from us than if you try willpower alone.

The service runs a variety of sessions, with over 40 clinics across Leeds which include groups, one-to-ones and drop-ins. The sessions provide information about the different types of treatment available, help you to plan and prepare for your quit day and also give expert advice and encouragement while you try to stop smoking. You’ll also have your carbon monoxide levels tested before and after you stop. Visit www.leedscommunityhealthcare.nhs.uk/our_services_az for more details.

I know that quitting can be hard but when I meet patients who’ve managed to give up in whatever way, they say it’s the best thing they ever did. With our help and support you can quit smoking for good.

Now is a good time too, as the law changes later in 2015, making it illegal to smoke in a privately-owned vehicle when someone under the age of 18 is present.