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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 06:15 GMT
Hotline to help smokers quit
Woman smoker
Doctors say New Year is a good time to attempt to quit
A Scottish health board has set up a special 24-hour hotline to help people trying to give up smoking.

Tayside Health Board is aiming to get people to stop smoking before they ruin their health.

According to one of the doctors behind the scheme, GP David Shaw, many people still do not understand the risks they face - despite years of health warnings.

He said: "50% of 20-a-day smokers die early as a result of smoking, with an average of 5 to7 years of life lost.

We tend to associate an element of blame with smoking, as if it is all the smoker's own fault - but it's an addiction

Dr David Shaw
"About 100,000 a year die in the UK of smoking related illnesses. If we can help even just a few of them that will be of benefit to society."

The hotline offers advice to smokers and their friends and relatives.

There is information on products such as nicotine replacement or Zyban, which suppresses addiction.

But Dr Shaw said the most important thing was to encourage the would-be quitters to make an appointment to visit a smoking clinic.

"Research shows that people are least likely to backslide if they come into a clinic and discuss their addiction," he added.

'Don't be embarrassed'

Dr Shaw said it was almost impossible to kick the habit over Christmas, which tends to be a stressful time.

Instead, people should try to stop when it is easiest - and he believes just after New Year is a good time.

The helpline will be a 24-hour operation
The doctor also stressed that addicts should not be embarrassed to admit they need help.

"We tend to associate an element of blame with smoking, as if it is all the smoker's own fault.

"But it is an addiction, and if you can get people off cigarettes you can extend their lives," said Dr Shaw.

The Tayside campaign organisers believe that the important thing is to keep trying.

It has helped about 1,000 smokers already - and even those who fail are welcomed back into the fold again.

Taysiders who are keen to quit can call 0845 600 9969.

Elsewhere in Scotland, people can seek assistance from the Scottish Health Education Organisation, Hebs, on its helpline by calling 0800 848484.

See also:

02 Nov 01 | UK Politics
New assault on smoking ads
14 Dec 01 | Health
Smoking in movies under fire
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