Press release

Smokers encouraged to swap fags for gags

Stoptober 2014 enrols country’s top comedians to help smokers get through the 28-day quitting challenge.

Stoptober, the 28-day stop smoking challenge from Public Health England, is encouraging smokers to swap their fags for gags to help them quit for good this October.

Top British comedians including Paddy McGuinness, Al Murray, Simon Brodkin (aka Lee Nelson, Jason Bent and Dr Bob) and Andi Osho will bring a touch of the British sense of humour to help quitters through this difficult and daunting challenge.

Smoking is no laughing matter and neither is quitting. Two-thirds of smokers say they want to quit but only 4 in 10 told a recent survey that they have tried in the last year. There is no doubt that quitting is tough, but it is known that people who quit do feel better in time.

Evidence shows that if a smoker can go 28 days without a cigarette, they are 5 times more likely to stay permanently smoke-free. Quitting smoking can be a difficult process but successfully quitting has significant health, monetary and social benefits.

The 2013 campaign saw 250,000 people take part and 65% of those who took part successfully quit for 28 days. Public Health England (PHE) is hoping even more will get involved this year by searching ‘stoptober’ online and signing up.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, said:

We know the idea of giving up smoking can be daunting, but Stoptober has proved itself to be a fantastic platform for people to quit and offers all the support that smokers may need to take the first step to stopping for good. With support from this year’s line up of comedians we are asking anyone who wants to quit to join the thousands of others and take up the challenge and give Stoptober a go - stop smoking and start smiling.

Stoptober launched on the 8 September with a 3-minute TV ‘sketch show’ during the Emmerdale ad break, fronted by the leading comedy line up and surprise guests. It will then be followed by a 3 week recruitment campaign to get as many smokers as possible ready to quit on 1 October. The 28-day stop smoking programme will include daily messages of motivation, persuasion and distraction, as well as jokes, tips and content for digital users.

Comedian and TV presenter Paddy McGuinness, who is supporting this year’s Stoptober campaign, comments:

I’m supporting Stoptober to encourage the nation to bin their fags this October. We are asking every smoker to take on the challenge of quitting for 28-days so they can enjoy being a bit healthier and also, have more loose change in their pockets. Over 250,000 people got involved last year, so you won’t be on your own. There will be lots of free support, plus me and my fellow comedy friends, to help you along the way.

Stoptober provides smokers with a range of free tools including a new stop smoking pack, a 28-day mobile phone app, text support with daily updates, quitting advice and tips for coping, as well as the encouragement and support from thousands of people quitting together through Stoptober social media channels.

A nation-wide roadshow running from 8 September to 11 October will also see comedic entertainers go into communities across the country to drive more people to get involved in the campaign and share their own humorous experiences of quitting smoking or supporting others.

The 28-day challenge starts on Tuesday 1 October. For more information and to join the biggest stop smoking challenge of its kind, search ‘Stoptober’ online and sign up.


Notes to Editors

  1. PHE exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through advocacy, partnerships, world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. For more information on PHE visit or follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk.
  2. While smoking rates have declined over past decades, smoking is still the biggest cause of preventable illness and premature deaths in the country: accounting for over 80,000 deaths in England a year. One in every two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking related disease unless they quit.

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