News story

Soldiers urge smokers to quit for Stoptober

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Soldiers from across England have joined forces with the NHS to encourage all smokers to take the Stoptober 28-day stop smoking challenge.

For the past month, military muscle has been pushing a giant red ‘Stop’ inflatable disk around the country to raise awareness of the campaign and to mark the countdown to the official start of the challenge, yesterday, 1 October.

Reserve soldiers from 151 (London) Transport Regiment Royal Logistic Corps pushed the ‘Stop’ disk through Croydon at the weekend, and yesterday morning 28 regular soldiers from the Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards and 27 Theatre Logistic Regiment Royal Logistic Corps brought the disk through central London to the final launch point in Trafalgar Square.

Standing 3 metres high, red ‘Stop’ disks will be present at key locations around the country throughout the 28 days of Stoptober to act as inspiration and motivation for people trying to stop smoking.

Over 8 million people in England smoke and it remains the nation’s biggest killer, with half of long-term smokers dying prematurely from a smoking-related disease.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

One in 2 long-term smokers die as a result of smoking; this is the single biggest cause of premature death, taking more than 100,000 lives in the UK and costing the NHS up to £2.7 billion each year.

Taking part in the challenge is a first step to a longer and healthier life, so have a go at stopping smoking with Stoptober.

Soldiers bring the 'Stop' disk through central London
Regular soldiers from the Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards and 27 Theatre Logistic Regiment bring the 'Stop' disk through central London [Picture: Sergeant Adrian Harlen RLC, Crown copyright]

Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said:

If smokers can stop for 28 days they are 5 times more likely to be able to remain smokefree for good, and we would encourage all smokers to join the thousands of others taking part and help dramatically improve their long- and short-term health.

Grenadier Guardsman Ryan Thompson quit smoking yesterday for Stoptober. He said:

I started smoking when I joined the Army – the pressure of training does get to you, but you know it’s wrong. I’ve decided to take the challenge and stop smoking today. I’m craving food more than anything so far.

Guardsman Thompson has the support of his friends to get him through the challenge:

We’ll go to the gym instead of popping outside for a cigarette, so hopefully I’ll be fitter, healthier and have a bit more cash by the end of the month.

33% of soldiers smoke as opposed to 21% of the civilian population. Major Eric Lewis of Army Health Promotions believes this may be due to the fact that soldiers, by their very nature, aren’t afraid to take risks.

Soldiers with the 'Stop' disk in Trafalgar Square
Regular soldiers from the Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards and 27 Theatre Logistic Regiment with the 'Stop' disk in Trafalgar Square [Picture: Sergeant Adrian Harlen RLC, Crown copyright]

But he also points out that because Service personnel are so frequently deployed overseas on exercises and on operations they have easy and regular access to cheap and duty free cigarettes.

Major Lewis and his team have been promoting a number of initiatives to reverse the trend in smoking within the military, including incentives that reward those who give up for the longest periods.

He said:

39 Engineer Regiment got a full hockey kit for running the most enduring and inspirational cessation of smoking event this year. Rewarding soldiers with sports kit seems to make a difference, as this is stuff they really want.

Those wishing to be involved in Stoptober can use the 28-day Stoptober app and receive text support which provides daily updates and quitting advice, detailed tools and tips for coping, as well as encouragement and support from the thousands of people all quitting together.

For more information and to order your free resources search for ‘Stoptober’ online or visit to begin the 28-day smokefree challenge.