Don’t allow smoking to ruin your lives too, urges carer

June Butler from North Shields and her daughter Sharon Emms-June is a sufferer from COPD and featured in a new anti-smoking campaign.
June Butler from North Shields and her daughter Sharon Emms-June is a sufferer from COPD and featured in a new anti-smoking campaign.

A North Tyneside carer is highlighting how smoking has left her mother’s health in ruins as part of a hard-hitting health campaign being re-launched across the north east.

Newcastle-based anti-smoking campaign group Fresh is reviving its Every Breath campaign to get across the message that cigarettes can destroy lives by causing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Figures from the National Health Service’s information centre reveal that the first phase of the campaign, launched last autumn, led to a huge rise in the number of people quitting smoking in the region.

A 17 per cent increase was seen in people setting quit dates through NHS stop smoking services in the north east, well above the 2.9 per cent rise recorded nationally.

A 21 per cent increase was also seen in people making it to week four of their new life without cigarettes, again well up on the 3.1 per cent rise seen nationwide.

Sharon Emms, of Whitley Bay, has cared for her mother, June Butler, 70, of North Shields, ever since she was diagnosed with COPD ten years ago.

The 42-year-old is now backing the Every Breath campaign as she knows first hand the devastation that the condition can cause to a family.

She said: “My mum always smoked. She made a point of not smoking in front of us, but I can remember hating the smell of cigarettes on her clothes and skin as a teenager.

“Over the years, I have watched my mum’s health deteriorate, which has been really painful to watch as she was always so strong and independent. It’s really sad to see.

“COPD is such a heartbreaking disease to have a family member with because you see them not only decline but also have frightening attacks where they can’t breathe. They are literally gasping for air.”

The north east has the highest rates in England of COPD.

As many as 80 per cent of cases of the lung disease are caused by smoking, and sufferers describe the later stages as feeling like they are choking or suffocating.

In the region, around 8,700 people were diagnosed with the condition in 2008, but it is estimated that around 32,000 more north-easterners have the disease but have never been diagnosed.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “The Every Breath campaign has been a real wake-up call to many smokers.

“It was news to many people who thought that being short of breath was normal when, in many cases, it is an early sign of COPD and it makes quitting even more urgent.

“We’ve had so much positive feedback from people who said the hard-hitting, factual approach gave them the reason they needed to quit smoking and have made the decision to run it again, based on the campaign’s proven track record of results.”

The Every Breath campaign is being backed by Wallsend-born singer Sting, and it uses his 1983 Police hit Every Breath You Take as a soundtrack. It is also supported by the British Lung Foundation.

The campaign will run until Sunday, September 23, with new television, cinema and radio adverts highlighting the stories of people affected by smoking-related COPD.

Sharon added: “I am always going to be there for my mum no matter what, but of course I wish things were different so that we could enjoy our time together, like other families can.

“Caring for a relative is hard on us all, and I’ve heard mum say that she regrets not quitting smoking sooner.

“If she had, things might have been different for us.”