Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others and reduce your need to use the NHS

With smokers being at greater risk of developing life-threatening respiratory complications from COVID-19, thereā€™s never been a more important time to stop smoking.

Smoking severely damages your lungs and weakens your immune system and puts you at greater risk of developing respiratory disease.  If you smoke indoors or in a vehicle it exposes those around you, particularly children, to increased risks from second-hand smoke.

Fortunately thereā€™s a huge range of free advice, support and quitting aids available for those who want to stop smoking to improve their health and stay out of hospital.

Throughout May and June Herefordshireā€™s Stop Smoking Service is offering free personal support to all residents registered with a GP practice in Herefordshire, to help them on their journey to quit smoking for good.  People can self-refer by simply emailing hlts@herefordshire.gov.uk or calling 01432 383567.  You can find out about the service by visiting www.wisherefordshire.org/smoking.

The NHS offers a wide range of support online.  You can find out more by visiting https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/ and thereā€™s also a free Personal Quit Plan available at www.nhs.uk/smokefree

The public health charity, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), are encouraging people to give up together through their Quit for Covid campaign.  They are hosting a twitter clinic every day from 7.30pm to 8.30pm, where people can ask questions and find support using the hashtag #QuitforCovid.  You can find out more about the campaign by visiting www.todayistheday.co.uk.

Herefordshire Council Cabinet Member, Councillor Gemma Davies, was a regular smoker since the age of 17, but I gave up 14 months ago.  She said:

ā€œI smoked on and off from a young age and I found that it was having a really bad effect on my health.  If I had a cold it would go straight to my chest and I used to wake up coughing in the mornings.

ā€œIn January 2019, my husband and I challenged ourselves to give up together. It also helped that we had a lot of friends also giving up around the same time, so we were able to support each other and after a few weeks we managed to quit for good.ā€œ

I always hated the smell of smoke, so it feels great to be completely smoke free now.  My cough has gone and I no longer suffer from chest infections.  I find that Iā€™m saving money and putting it towards holidays rather than wasting it on cigarettes.  When I go out with friends Iā€™m able to join in with whole conversations rather than going outside in all weathers just to have a quick cigarette.

ā€œI would say to anyone who has tried to give up in the past and failed, please donā€™t let this stop you from trying again.  Now more than ever itā€™s incredibly important to have a strong respiratory system and stay well.  Quitting isnā€™t easy, but thereā€™s great free personal support available through Herefordshireā€™s Stop Smoking Service and the NHS.  Iā€™ve given up and I feel so much better for it and with help and support you can do it too.ā€