News & Comment

No Smoking Day passes with barely a whimper

Wed 14th March, 2012

This year's No Smoking Day has caused barely a ripple in the news pages, writes Katy Stoddard on the Guardian blog.

Organisers of the first campaign in 1984 claimed that 1.3 million smokers refrained on the day, 20,000 of whom stopped smoking permanently.

The idea stuck, and by the following year towns and cities across the UK were queueing up to take part. Londonderry floated a giant blimp above the skyline, and leaflets and posters appeared across the country.

Not everyone was on board with the idea though, writes Stoddard. Even during the first campaign, there was an uneasy feeling in some quarters that the initiative eroded personal freedoms.

Journalist Rod Liddle, writing in 2003, bemoaned the existence of 'national days' generally, saying that his one aim on No Smoking Day was to 'double my usual intake of nicotine'.

Increasingly the national campaign appears to be falling on deaf ears. In South Tyneside the local paper asked shoppers what they made of No Smoking Day.

Mum-of-one Nikki Elliott has smoked since the age of 16. The 26-year-old, from Harton, South Shields, said: “I didn’t realise it was today, but I knew it was coming up soon. It wouldn’t have made any difference though – I would have still smoked anyway.

“It seems pointless to stop for just one day. If people know they want to try to quit, then maybe they could start on that day. But if you’re a smoker, you’re not going to not smoke for that one day.”

Adam Frame, who volunteers at a British Heart Foundation store, has smoked for seven years. The 18-year-old, from Horsley Hill, South Shields, said: “It’s daft to think that people are just going to stop that one day.

You need more time than that. If you’re trying to quit then fair enough, but if you’re a smoker, it would be too hard to just give it up that one day. I’ve tried to quit before but it hasn’t worked.”

Richard Earl, a smoker of nine years, from Gateshead, thinks the day does nothing to encourage people to stop smoking. The 22-year-old said: “It’s rubbish, it’s not going to help people stop smoking. You can’t just not smoke on No Smoking Day, it’s a lot harder than that."

Kay Wright, 29, has been smoking for 12 years. The dog groomer, from Biddick Hall, South Shields, said: “I’ve actually been to a stop smoking event this morning. I’m trying to cut down so I can quit.

“But I don’t think anyone really pays any attention to No Smoking Day. It seems strange to expect people to not smoke for one day.

Lauren Roche, unemployed, has been a smoker for five years. The 18-year-old, from Biddick Hall, South Shields, said: “I don’t think the day encourages people to give up smoking. It’s a lot to expect from people because quitting is really hard.”

Sources: Guardian (14 March 2012), Shields Gazette (15 March 2012)

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