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Shock campaign to help smokers stop.

Byline: Sophie Blakemore

Health Correspondent sophie_blakemore@mrn.co.uk A campaign to raise the awareness of the link between smoking and heart disease is being launched in the West Midlands today.

Graphic adverts showing a fatty build-up oozing out of a smoker's artery will feature as part of the effort to encourage more people kick the habit for New Year.

New statistics released to coincide with the drive by the British Heart Foundation have revealed that 27 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women in the region smoke. Yet figures show that only 12 per cent of people realise there is a connection between smoking and heart and circulatory disease.

Steve Watson, professor for the BHF and expert in cardiovascular sciences at the University of Birmingham, said it was vital to emphasize the connection to the public.

'Smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack as non smokers, because of increased damage to the artery wall caused by the build-up of fatty deposits, a condition known as atherosclerosis,' said Prof Watson.

'Heart disease is the biggest killer in the UK and the chance of developing it is doubled in smokers.

'It is disturbing that only 12 per cent of people in the West Midlands are aware of this link and we need to raise the profile. 'There has been more made of the connection between smoking and lung cancer in the past and now we need to alert people to the risks associated with heart disease. 'Stopping smoking is the most important thing a smoker can do to prevent a heart attack.'

The pounds 4 million national campaign also includes newspaper and poster advertising and beer mats will be distributed to pubs throughout England.

The fat in the cigarette in the adverts represents the fat that can clog arteries leading to coronary heart disease.

It has been funded by the Department of Health who earlier this year gave pounds 7.5 million each to the BHF and Cancer Research UK to run aggressive antismoking campaigns over the next three years. In the UK today, about 13 million adults -28 per cent of men and 26 per cent of women -smoke cigarettes.

Every year as many as 114,000 people die as a result of smoking. Of these, 30,000 die from cardiovascular disease.

In the West Midlands, of the 30,000 people attending smoking cessation services who set a quit date, just over half reported having successfully given up at their four-week follow up.

Smoking kills more people worldwide from cardiovascular disease than cancer.

Claire Simmons, regional director of the BHF for Central England, added: 'The BHF has a role to play in educating smokers about the harmful effects of smoking but we don't want to lecture them.

'We recognise that giving up smoking is not an easy task and we provide independent, reliable information and advice to help smokers who are trying to quit.'

The advertising campaign will target hard core smokers.

A new anti-smoking website has been set up at www.bhf.org.uk offering advice to quitters and information is available on the charity's helpline 0800 169 1900.

CAPTION(S):

Anne Healey of Sutton Coldfield, who was forced to give up smoking after a heart attack; A video showing fat being squeezed out of the artery of a smoker
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:558
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