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What is No Smoking Day and how can it help Londoners quit?

Smoking raises the risk of developing dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia (PA Media)
Smoking raises the risk of developing dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia (PA Media)

Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to improve your health, and reduce the risk of developing dementia, heart disease, cancer, or stroke.

Within weeks of stopping, you will experience the health benefits of breathing easier and feeling fitter.

Quitting for at least six weeks is also proven to boost mental health and wellbeing, by relieving stress, anxiety, and depression.

However, it’s notoriously difficult to stop, because nicotine is a highly addictive drug.

One way to tackle it is to be surrounded by others attempting to do the same - which is where No Smoking Day comes in.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to get involved.

What is No Smoking Day?

No Smoking Day is an annual awareness day that encourages smokers to attempt to quit the habit.

This year’s theme is “stopping smoking protects your brain health”.

People over the age of 55 most fear getting dementia, more than any other life-threatening disease, such as cancer or diabetes, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK.

However, YouGov data commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) revealed that fewer than one in five (17 per cent) of people in London who smoke understand that smoking increases the risk of dementia, compared to 77 per cent who know that smoking causes lung disease or cancer.

Smoking raises the risk of developing dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

If you smoke, quitting is perhaps the most important step you can take to protect both your heart and your brain

Dr Chi Udeh-Momoh, a neuroscientist and dementia-prevention expert

This is because it harms the vascular system (heart and blood vessels) and the brain.

Studies also suggest that quitting smoking reduces this risk substantially, and smoking has been identified as one of 12 risk factors that, if eliminated entirely, could collectively prevent or delay up to 40 per cent of dementia cases.

Yet data from Alzheimer’s Research UK shows only a third of UK adults know there are things they can do to help reduce their risk of dementia, and stopping smoking is one of them.

When is No Smoking Day?

No Smoking Day will be on Wednesday, March 8.

How can No Smoking Day help Londoners quit?

Tracy Parr, programme director of London Tobacco Alliance and Stop Smoking London, said: “Free help is available for anyone in London who wants to stop smoking.

“We know it is much easier to overcome tobacco dependence with expert support – you’re three times as likely to stop smoking successfully with help from your free service.

“For smokers thinking ‘Today is the day’, London’s dedicated digital and free telephone programme Stop Smoking London can also help you find local face-to-face services to help you achieve your goal of being smoke-free.”

Dr Chi Udeh-Momoh, a neuroscientist and dementia-prevention expert based at Imperial College London, said: “If you smoke, quitting is perhaps the most important step you can take to protect both your heart and your brain. It really can be life-changing.

“Many people know that smoking affects the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of conditions like high blood pressure and stroke. But fewer realise that these conditions, in turn, increase the risk of dementia, or that the chemicals in cigarette smoke can speed up the natural aging of the brain.

“It’s fantastic that brain health is the theme of No Smoking Day 2023. Initiatives like this are so important in raising awareness of the steps we can take to help keep the brain healthy.”

Cells in an Alzheimer’s-affected brain. (National Institute on Aging, NIH via AP)
Cells in an Alzheimer’s-affected brain. (National Institute on Aging, NIH via AP)

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, who is helping to co-ordinate this year’s No Smoking Day, explained that: “No Smoking Day is the perfect time to quit smoking when thousands of other people are stopping, too.

“There are many ways to stop, from nicotine-replacement therapy to vaping and free local support to stop smoking. Smokers are three times more likely to succeed in quitting with help from a trained professional than with willpower alone.”

Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, added: “Just a third of people realise that we can take steps to help reduce our risk of developing dementia in later life.

“This has to change, which is why improving people’s understanding of the things that they can do to shape their brain health is a real priority for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

“We’re delighted to be working alongside ASH to shine a light on the link between smoking and brain health. We hope the positive message that quitting smoking at any point can help reduce your dementia risk gives people who smoke fresh motivation to quit this No Smoking Day.”

Visit stopsmokinglondon.com/todayistheday to find out more.

What are other health awareness days?

Following on from No Smoking Day is World Kidney Day on March 9, which aims to educate people on improving kidney health.

Then, on March 17, is World Sleep Day - which looks into factors influencing rest, including medicine, education, social aspects, and driving.

The following week sees World Down Syndrome Day, on March 21, which is advocating for the rights of people with Down syndrome.