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Thursday, July 23, 1998 Published at 16:11 GMT


Youngsters in for a shock

What is trendy about a damaged heart?

Teenagers are in for a shock if they listen to the latest anti-smoking campaign.

The Health Education Authority has produced some graphic pictures and statistics to try to persuade youngsters to give cigarettes a miss.

The 'Every Cigarette is Doing You Damage' campaign carries images of a cancer-riddled lung, a diseased heart and a close-up view of a tumour inside a mouth.

They are used alongside photographs showing fashionable young people smoking.

They are supported by disturbing research about the damage smoking does to your health.

The HEA says:

  • Smokers as young as 15 have damaged blood vessels and cells which are linked to heart attacks and strokes.
  • Smokers in their teens and twenties are more likely than non-smokers to have a build up of fat on their arteries
  • Damage to the airways and lungs begins from the first cigarette smoked.

[ image: HEA: the damage starts early]
HEA: the damage starts early
"Many young people continue to smoke because they think they can give up before any harm is done, but we now know that smoking causes serious damage from early in life," Katie Aston, Campaign Manager for the HEA, said.

"Lung cancer, heart disease and strokes may be the end point, but every cigarette contributes, and the damage gets worse every time you light up."

Interactive Website

The HEA is using a new interactive Website - - to back up the campaign. It offers simple, practical advice for people who want to stop smoking, and shows how the body starts to recover from the effects of cigarettes:

  • 20 minutes after quitting - Blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal.
  • 8 hours after quitting - Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in the blood reduce by half, oxygen levels return to normal.
  • 24 hours after quitting - Carbon monoxide will be eliminated from the body. Lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris.
  • 48 hours after quitting - There is no nicotine left in the body. Ability to taste and smell is greatly improved.

[ image: The Website has a game to keep fingers busy]
The Website has a game to keep fingers busy
Users can also register to receive automatic e-mail reminders and tips on how to beat the craving for a cigarette in the weeks after they have given up.

There is even a game called the Finger Fiddler to help keep idle hands busy and away from any cigarette packet.

Youth problem

The campaign has been launched at the same time as the latest statistics on the number of young smokers in England are released.

There are more smokers aged 16-24 than in any other age group. In 1997, 29% of women in this age group were regular smokers, compared with 35% of men.

The number of young women smokers has fallen by 4% since 1996, while the number of young men smoking has increased by 1%.

At the launch of the campaign, Dr Chris Donovan, who specialises in care for young people at the Royal College of General Practitioners, described talking to elderly cancer patients in hospitals.

He said: "They would say to me, 'why didn't I listen?' We have a moral obligation to lay the facts in front of youngsters."

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