It helps to have a good sense of humour when things are tough. Anyone who has quit smoking, or knows someone who has, will know that quitting counts as a tough time. Friends and colleagues who have quit tell me they could have used a laugh throughout the process.
Equally, we know that even taking the first step of trying to quit can be daunting. Detailed reports from the Smoking Toolkit Study have found that two thirds of smokers say they want to quit but only four in ten have tried in the last year. This is despite the well-known health, monetary, and social benefits of going smokefree.
This is where Stoptober comes in. Stoptober is now in its third year and is the biggest mass quit attempt in the UK. Like all of our campaigns it is underpinned by evidence, in particular research which shows that if you can stop smoking for 28 days, you are five times more likely to stay smokefree for good. It is fast becoming a landmark event in the annual health calendar, with 250,000 people taking part last year and 65% of those successfully quitting for 28 days.
This year our approach is focused on using humour to encourage people to quit with some of the country’s top comedians, including Al Murray and Paddy McGuinness, pledging their support and jokes to help people get through the 28 days.
Maybe you yourself are looking to quit, or know someone who is. If so, Stoptober really is the perfect time to try. Facing quitting alone can be an isolating experience, but when someone signs up to Stoptober they know they will not be alone. Many thousands of people will be quitting alongside them and the knowledge that they are part of something bigger will go a long way to helping them take the first steps necessary to quit for good.
From now and throughout September, smokers will be encouraged to sign up and get ready to start their quit attempt from the 1st October. The support services available for all smokers to order, or download, include a Stoptober pack full of information and resources, a Stoptober smartphone app and 28-day text message and email support services.
Social media is playing a lead role too, offering support for quitters by sending encouraging comedic messages at times when they are likely to suffer from cravings. Daily messages of support, motivation, jokes and tips to keep people engaged throughout the campaign are great ways to ensure people successfully complete the challenge.
The campaign will be supported by a national roadshow travelling to over 20 cities in all regions. The roadshow will use street entertainers to encourage people to take up the challenge. As well as the entertaining performances, local stop smoking services will be on hand to provide information and advice.
In addition, members of the public will be able to tell jokes and record messages of support to share via social media.
And while 28 days seems like a long time – the health effects of quitting are startlingly quick:
- After 20 minutes: Blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal.
- After 8 hours: Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in blood reduce by half and oxygen levels return to normal.
- After 48 hours: Carbon monoxide will be eliminated from the body. Lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris.
- After 48 hours: There is no nicotine in the body. Ability to taste and smell is greatly improved.
- After 72 hours: Breathing becomes easier. Bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy levels increase.
Not to mention the significant long-term benefits of a life without tobacco.
The 28-day challenge starts on Wednesday 1st October. For more information and to sign up, just search ‘Stoptober’ online.
In the meantime let me know how you feel humour fits within a stop smoking campaign. Does it have the potential to be used within other public health campaigns? Is a gentle approach an effective way to reach people with serious messages?