A hard-hitting new TV advert shows how poisons from the tar in cigarettes enter the bloodstream and flow through the body within seconds, causing damage to major organs.
The campaign also highlights how smoking can lead to elevated levels of cadmium – a metal used in batteries – in the blood, as well as cancer-causing nitrosamines and carbon monoxide.
Public Health England (PHE) has released the advert to urge the country’s seven million smokers to have a go at quitting this New Year.
PHE director of health improvement, Professor John Newton said people know that tar damages the lungs, but it is less well understood that the poisons also reach the other major organs in the body.
“Our new TV ad shows how every cigarette sends a flood of poisonous chemicals through the bloodstream in seconds,” Prof Newton said. “We are urging every smoker to take advantage of the free Smokefree support and quit for good this New Year.”
TV presenter and entrepreneur Hilary Devey, a former investor on Dragon’s Den, appears in a film to support the new advert, and vows to give up her 40-year habit after taking part in tests and seeing all the toxic substances in her blood.
The 60-year-old describes how she has smoked from the age of around 14, apart from a break of a few years when she had her son and said even suffering a stroke three years ago only led to her stopping temporarily.
“I’ve smoked at least 20 a day for over 40 years,” she said. “Like many, I’ve been hooked on cigarettes and ignoring the damage – even though I know the harm I’m doing.
“I’ve found it extremely difficult to quit for good. Seeing the high levels of poisonous chemicals in my blood from these tests really hit home how dangerous continuing to smoke is – and for that reason, I’m done.”
Every year smoking kills 79,000 people in England, while for every death, another 20 smokers have a smoking-related disease, he said. One person is admitted to hospital every minute due to smoking.
More than 4,000 chemicals are released into the body with each cigarette, including more than 70 known cancer-causing compounds. Exposure to cadmium for a long period of time is associated with an increased risk of damage to the kidneys and bones and may lead to lung cancer.
Research has shown that those who smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer as a non-smoker. Other cancers associated with smoking include cancers of the pancreas, mouth, respiratory and digestive tracts.
Meanwhile carbon monoxide decreases the ability of the blood to carry oxygen, putting a strain on the heart. It is also associated with an increased risk of blood clots and coronary heart disease.
PHE said there are many ways to quit, including free proven support from NHS Smokefree. Face-to-face help, stop smoking aids, a quitting app, email, social media, and SMS support are all available for people to try and find out what suits them.
Health minister Steve Brine added: “Smoking kills tens of thousands of people every year and a long term smoker loses an average of 10 years of their life. Although smoking rates are at their lowest level in decades, seven million of us still haven’t kicked the habit.
“When people see the devastating impact on their health and lives, I hope they will make a change to protect themselves and their families.”