Northern Ireland’s leading health charity, Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS), welcomes this year’s World No Tobacco Day’s focus on tobacco and heart disease.
Said Neil Johnston the charity’s Public Affairs Adviser, “Tobacco use is an important risk factor for the development of coronary heart disease and stroke. This is often overlooked. People largely understand the link with cancer but we have more to do to raise awareness of the impact on heart health and this must start by targeting young people to develop healthy heart habits from a young age.
“Coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of deaths in Northern Ireland with over 74,000 people living with this disease. Tobacco use is the second biggest cause of cardiovascular disease so there is a very strong link between the two and we need to take action.
“It is a sad fact too that in the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland nearly one in three people still smoke. We need targeted action in these areas, particularly in the local schools, otherwise we are condemning many of the children from these areas to a lifetime of ill health.”
Jessica Perry, NICHS’s Health Promotion Schools Coordinator, explained how the charity is working to make a difference. “Our schools programme ‘Chester’s Challenge’ is delivered in the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland and we now offer a dedicated ‘Stamp out Smoking’ session with 10-11 year olds who are about to move into a secondary school setting. We were really concerned by recent figures that show three out of four smokers had smoked their first cigarette by the age of 14.
So, it is vital we increase awareness and knowledge of the dangers of smoking at an early age.”
A pupil who took part in NICHS’s smoking session said, “I always thought that I would try smoking when I got older, and now I won’t. It’s not worth it”.
NICHS is calling for a greater effort from government in tackling smoking rates amongst young people and is urging all smokers to stop for a healthier heart.