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Ad campaign success

Calls to the NHS Smoking Helpline rose six-fold following the success of a New Year advertising campaign.

Calls to the NHS Smoking Helpline rose six-fold in the New Year to 15,000 following the success of a New Year advertising campaign.

And the number of people who quit smoking after attending a cessation clinic increased by nearly 50 per cent year-on-year to 107,800, the NHS said. In 2004, more than 200,000 people quit smoking with help from NHS stop smoking services - a record figure - it added.

The advertising campaign featured real people who had quit with help from the NHS and carried the slogan "If you've got the will, we've got the way".

On January 6, two days after the adverts first aired, 15,000 people called the helpline - compared to 2,500 the year before.

NHS Smoking Helpline adviser Alexia Paterson said: "These last few weeks have been the busiest we can remember. "Smokers are calling in their droves to seek advice and guidance on how to quit or to find out about their local NHS stop smoking services."

Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson said the NHS campaigns were making real progress. "The latest campaign has been one of the most successful since the local NHS stop smoking services were launched.

"We know that 70 per cent of smokers want to quit and the response over the last few months is evidence that more and more are being encouraged to take that first step either by calling the free NHS Smoking Helpline or visiting their local service."

GPs were also positive about the NHS drive, with more than half of 330 surveyed by Cancer Research UK saying the existence of the services had made it easier to raise the subject of smoking with their patients.

But the NHS still has a long way to go with about 12m adults in the UK smoking cigarettes - 27 per cent of men and 25 per cent of women.

Professor Robert West, director of tobacco studies at Cancer Research UK, said smoking clinics - of which there are 170 in England - still had a stigma attached to them and urged GPs to do more to help their patients.

"Some smokers might be nervous or worried about getting formal help to quit," he said. "GPs need to reassure people that smokers' clinics are not embarrassing or mysterious.

"They are not a form of psychotherapy designed to discover inner-most feelings about smoking."

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association will release figures on Wednesday giving an update on how many people die from second-hand smoke in the UK.

2nd September 2008

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