skip to main content

Smoking linked to loss of up to 15 years of healthy life warns leading local health charity

15 Mar 2023

March is No Smoking Month and Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS) is using this period to remind the public just how detrimental to health smoking is.

Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northern Ireland, robbing 10-15 years of healthy life ¹ ² ³ according to the charity. Fidelma Carter, Head of Public Health at NICHS says; “Smoking kills around 2,300 people each year in Northern Ireland which is an alarming statistic. We are concerned at the fact around 17% of the population in NI smoke.”

“We would encourage people to try and start their journey towards quitting smoking and better health this No Smoking Month. The fact smoking is the biggest cause of preventable illness and premature death will hopefully help persuade many people across Northern Ireland to kick this habit for good.”

Fidelma continues; “There are over 5,000 chemicals in a cigarette. These chemicals increase your risk of chest, heart and stroke conditions as well as other illnesses. Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with people who have never smoked. Furthermore, every cigarette shortens your life by 5 minutes. When you think about the impact of smoking in terms like this it is truly shocking.”

“Quitting smoking can also have a huge impact on the health of your loved ones as they will be protected from inhaling harmful second-hand smoke. Many smokers won’t realise that 85% of the particles from second-hand smoke are invisible, odourless and can linger for up to 5 hours after your last cigarette. Second-hand smoke contains more than 4,000 toxic chemicals, putting others at risk.”

“Many people are also experiencing financial pressures due to the current cost of living crisis and stopping smoking could go a long way in helping save money. For example, a smoker of 10 cigarettes a day could save up to £530 in the first 12 weeks of stopping smoking.”

What advice would Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke give to people hoping to quit smoking this No Smoking Month, or at any other time? Fidelma says; “We understand it can be extremely difficult to give up smoking but there are wide-ranging free stop smoking support services out there to help. You are four times more likely to quit successfully if you get professional help and nicotine replacements, so we would encourage people to contact their community pharmacy or GP to find out more about the help available. The website also has further information on the support available.”

“Some practical tips to help with stopping smoking include, working out your smoking habits and trying to avoid the triggers and situations where you smoke, for example during breaks at work, after meals, or when socialising. Set a date, tell family and friends and stick to it; when you feel the urge to smoke try to distract yourself as a craving only lasts three minutes; and why not put the money you save from not buying cigarettes in a jar, so you can see it building up and it serves as a visual reminder of the money you are saving.”

Fidelma concludes; “It’s important to remember that it’s never too late to give up smoking and doing so is the biggest lifestyle change you can make to help reduce your risk of becoming seriously ill. The risk of serious disease starts reducing as soon as you stop smoking- breathing becomes easier and improves as lung function increases, and within one year of quitting a person’s risk of a heart attack is halved”.

For more information on stopping smoking visit