SMOKERS in County Durham are
being urged to quit and reduce their risk of developing a disease,
which can leave sufferers fighting for breath.
Fresh's 'Every Breath' campaign
is raising raise awareness of smoking and chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD) and is being supported by the British Lung
COPD is the UK's fifth biggest
killer, is mainly caused by smoking and feeling breathless is an
early sign. Sufferers can end up feeling like they are suffocating
and one major study even suggests at least 1 in 4 smokers
will develop clinically significant COPD
The North East is one of the
hardest hit regions with an estimated 93,273 people living with the condition. In
County Durham, North Durham, figures suggest around 6,559 people are living
with COPD. In Darlington this figure is 2,912 and in Durham Dales,
Easington and Sedgefield around 8,819 have COPD.
The North East also has the
highest hospital admission rates from COPD with around 8,729 people
admitted in 2011.
COPD is an umbrella term to
describe a number of lung conditions including emphysema and
chronic bronchitis. With emphysema, the air sacs in the lungs are
gradually destroyed with every cigarette so people have difficulty
absorbing enough oxygen. The bronchi become floppy and narrow so
that it becomes harder to breathe in and out.
Smoking is the single biggest
cause of the condition, responsible for around 80% of cases with
every cigarette smoked causing further damage. There are varying
levels of severity but once the damage is done, it is irreversible.
Quitting smoking is the one clear way to reduce your
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh,
said: "COPD is a disease that too many smokers are not aware of
until they are diagnosed, but research suggests that more than a
quarter of smokers will develop it.
"Those figures are truly
alarming, especially when so many people who smoke do suffer from
early warning signs like feeling short of breath but dismiss them
as a "normal" part of smoking. Not being able to breathe properly
is something nobody wants to happen to them,
"When we ran this campaign in
2011 thousands of people quit as a result which is why we are
running it again - it is never too late to quit smoking and it is
the best way to reduce the risk."
Michael Davis, from Wingate,
County Durham, was diagnosed with COPD in 2009 when he was only in
his late 40s. Although his health was badly deteriorating, Michael
admits he had never given much thought to the way smoking was
The 55-year-old said: "I was not
bothered at all about smoking or what it was doing to me, until I
got bad - then I was terrified. I basically died twice in hospital
last year. Twice in the space of a week I was gone.
"I collapsed at home and when
the ambulance came I begged the paramedics to let me die. I was
asthmatic as a child and I've had my fair share of asthma attacks.
They are nothing compared to this. I couldn't breathe, couldn't
even catch a breath. It was like I was suffocating. I said 'please
just let me die' because it was that awful.
"When I got out of the hospital
I said that was it. I was never going to have a cigarette
Dr Neil Munro, consultant
respiratory physician, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation
Trust, said: "Smoking is the biggest cause of COPD and every
cigarette smoked damages the lungs further. There is not a day of
my working life goes by without treating patients whose lives
have been blighted by the harmful effects of cigarette smoking.
COPD makes everyday activities such as walking upstairs, shopping
or doing housework difficult.
"It is vital anyone with the
early warning signs such as feeling out of breath, morning cough or
bronchitis in the winter months quits smoking. Stopping cigarettes
and discussing with your GP about further investigation and
treatment may help prevent you becoming permanently disabled by
smoking related diseases. Don't wait until your health has gone up
An estimated 1.2 million people
in the UK are living with diagnosed COPD. However, the British Lung
Foundation estimates millions more people in the UK may be living
with COPD and experiencing symptoms without being
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive,
British Lung Foundation said: "Any campaign that raises awareness
of lung conditions and the steps people can take to prevent them is
welcome. We know that smoking is a key factor in developing lung
disease, especially COPD and lung cancer. Giving up smoking with
the help of NHS quit smoking services is a great first step in
preventing further lung damage, it's never too late!"
Anyone who feels breathless
doing everyday tasks should consider taking the BLF's online breath
to see if they need to see a
The study suggesting 1 in 4
smokers will develop COPD was published in Thorax - the official
journal of the British Thoracic Society. It studied over 8000
people in Denmark over a 25 year period. It found 25% of the
smokers without any initial symptoms of the disease developed
"clinically significant" COPD, while up to 40% had some signs of
Every Breath will run for five
weeks and will be supported by hard-hitting TV advertising backed
by musician Sting, and an online breathing exercise where people
can experience what it feels like to suffer from COPD.
Sting, who is originally from
the North East, said: "Many people across the UK are affected by
lung damage and other smoking related illnesses, particularly in
the North East where I grew up. I'm pleased to support a programme
which works towards giving people the motivation and support they
need to quit."
For further information and
support on quitting, visit everybreath.tv
To get your quit attempt
underway, ask at your GP surgery or pharmacy, or contact your local
stop smoking service for help and support:
County Durham Smokefreelife
- 0800 772 0565 or
text QUIT to 66777
- 0300 123
1044 (national quitline only)
'As I was very, very nervous, I must have been the worst patient
ever and they were brilliant with me and I can't thank them enough
- could you please pass on my sincere thanks.'
Patient, Hysteroscopy Unit, Chester-le-Street Community