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Saturday, 5 January, 2002, 00:30 GMT
Mel C backs 'ashtray amnesty'
Spice Girl Mel C
Mel C wants smokers to stub out cigarettes
Sporty Spice Mel C is backing a New Year "ashtray amnesty" which aims to encourage smokers to quit.

The support of celebrities like Mel C and England footballer Michael Owen has been welcomed by a leading health expert for proving "you don't need a cigarette to be cool and successful".

We need help to drum the message home that (smoking) is not fun, not cool and not glamorous

Professor Gordon McVie, CRC
Professor Gerard Hastings, of Strathclyde University in Scotland, has called on other pop and sporting heroes to help prevent Britain's youngsters becoming the next generation of lung cancer victims.

Latest figures from leading cancer charities show about 450 children - some as young as nine - start smoking every day.

Lung cancer kills 34,000 people in the UK, more than any other cancer - and experts estimate 80% to 90% of cases are caused by smoking.

The Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Campaign are launching the "ashtray amnesty" in January as part of Lung Cancer Awareness Month to help smokers quit.

The ashtrays will recycled into a sculpture, to be unveiled on March 13, No Smoking Day.

Setting an example

Mel C said: "Having a healthy lifestyle doesn't guarantee you won't get cancer but smoking dramatically increases the risk.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's like playing Russian Roulette with your life."

She urged people who were already addicted to "stub out those cigarettes now and send in your ashtray today".

Professor Hastings, praised celebrities like Mel C who set a "healthy example to young fans".

Collected ashtrays will be recycled
Collected ashtrays will be recycled
"It's wonderful to see such idols using their influence to counter the might of the tobacco industry," he said.

"It's hard for young people to appreciate the long-term damage smoking can do.

"With the help of Mel C, we can hopefully help them stop, or better still, prevent them starting in the first place."

Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the CRC, said: "It is great to have the support of Mel C who is idolised by thousands of young girls.

"Smoking among teenage girls is rife and we need help to drum the message home that it is not fun, not cool and not glamorous."

The address to send unwanted clean ashtrays (not glass) to is: Ashtray Amnesty, 61 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3PX, until the end of January.

Senders should include their name, address, phone number, details of how long they have been a smoker and why they want to give up. They could win a trip to Wales, Scotland or the West Country, courtesy of Virgin Trains.

See also:

31 Dec 01 | Health
Adverts target New Year quitters
14 Dec 01 | Health
Smoking in movies under fire
22 Aug 01 | Health
Just trying to quit boosts health
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