Page last updated at 00:51 GMT, Saturday, 21 November 2009

Smokefree United helping football fans to quit

Football fans
Most fans who smoke want to give up, surveys suggest

Chelsea fans may be celebrating their team being top of the Premier League but they are struggling off the pitch to give smoking the red card.

Only 79 Blues fans have signed up for Smokefree United, a virtual club of quitters, compared with 282 from rivals Manchester United, who top the table.

More than 1,500 fans have signed up for the scheme, launched in October by the NHS and covering all league clubs.

Fans are said to be four times more likely to kick the habit with support.

Advice and prizes

The majority of male smokers (70%) would like to quit and more than 80% of them are football fans.

Smokefree United provides coaching and support to help players and fans to stop smoking.

In addition to quitting advice, fans can win "money-can't-buy" prizes and boost their team's position in the Smokefree United League.

In second place are Liverpool fans, with 189 quitters; more than half of Liverpool fans say they would give up smoking if their team won the League and FA Cup double - more than for any other team.

Arsenal are in third place with 141 fans who want to quit, followed by Tottenham who are just 6 points ahead of Chelsea with 85 fans.

Former footballer and media commentator Andy Townsend hosts a chatline on the Smokefree United website.

He said: "I'd encourage all football fans and players who have thought about quitting to sign up for Smokefree United.

"Quitting smoking will have a huge impact on your game and you'll immediately become more competitive on the pitch because your cardiovascular fitness will improve."

'Loving life'

JAYGFC, a Smokefree United quitter from Gillingham, said: "I signed up to Smokefree United and am now in my 7th week of not smoking - I have started jogging and I feel great!

"I did one week with the patches and that was it.

"I am loving life again and didn't realise just how unfit I was!"

Martin Dockrell, research director for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), welcomed the news about the number of committed football fan quitters: "Combining quitting and football means fans could be in with a chance to do the treble this season.

"Give up smoking and it will improve your fitness levels and stamina almost overnight, while getting more exercise will boost your morale and improve your chances of quitting for good.

"And if you're worried that quitting will mean you put on weight, a little extra training will help you avoid chants of 'who ate all the pies'."

A number of football clubs run initiatives aimed at improving the health of their supporters.

Sunderland's Fit for Football scheme uses coaching to help people give up smoking and to provide messages about healthy eating and general well-being. And Hull City has just launched a six-week health advice programme for men aged 18-39.

Smokefree united premier league
Position Team Number of quitters
1 Man Utd 282
2 Liverpool 189
3 Arsenal 141
4 Tottenham 85
5 Chelsea 79
6 Aston Villa 65
7 Portsmouth 56
8 Everton 45
9 West Ham 39
10 Birmingham 32
11 Man City 32
12 Sunderland 18
13 Fulham 16
14 Blackburn 15
15 Hull 15
16 Wolverhampton 13
17 Bolton 10
18 Stoke 7
19 Burnley 5
20 Wigan 3

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