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Byline: Marie Levy

THERE has never been a better time for Teesside smokers to stub out their deadly habit once and for all, according to a health expert.

Peter Heywood, consultant in public health medicine for Middlesbrough Primary Care Trust said that Teesside has a lower than average life expectancy and that stopping smoking is the single biggest thing people can do to try to prevent an early death.

He said the main killer is coronary heart disease but the underlying cause is smoking.

He believes the smoking ban will help those who want to stub out the habit.

"If you smoke then there are services available to help you stop smoking which work," he said.

And those who have beaten the addiction are living proof it can be done.

Hugh McBride, 79, of Thornaby said it was not that hard to stub out the habit - even after smoking 20 a day for 60 years.

"I was the only one in the family that smoked.

"Then when you go to the Riverside to watch the match you can't smoke.

"And when they put the last 10p on a packet of fags I decided I would pack it in."

Hugh contacted his local NHS Stop Smoking Service in March and got a nicotine inhalator and chewing gum to help tackle his cravings.

"It was pretty easy," he said.

"I miss my first cigarette so I just put a piece of chewing gum in every morning.

"I now have a pink tongue again and everything tastes better.

"I always get tempted but it only lasts for about 15 seconds. If you can get over that 15 seconds you have won."

He said he believes the ban will help convince more people to quit.

And he said saving more than pounds 30 a week has helped pay for his recent trip to Canada.

Nigel Barnard, 36, has not found it such an easy ride.

After being a 40-a-day smoker for 25 years he quit in March in an attempt to stop his 16-year-old son, Nathan, from smoking.

"My son said 'the day you pack in is the day I pack in', so we did it together."

Two weeks ago Nigel fell off the wagon but he is getting back on it again in time for the ban.

"When I first stopped it was really easy. I was really motivated because of the reasons behind it.

"But a family tragedy made me fall off the wagon."

Nigel is using nicotine patches and an inhalator to wean himself off his unhealthy habit.

"We never smoke in the house because we have a baby so that was another reason to pack it in.

"The biggest thing I noticed when I stopped was how different certain things tasted. Coffee tastes 100 times better."

Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, Smoke Free North East adds: "In the North-east, we've some of the best Stop Smoking Services in the country. They can offer both group or one-to-one support and can help quitters get patches or other stop smoking aids on prescription."
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jun 29, 2007
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