LUNG disease sufferers are being urged to clear the air by ditching their cigarettes.
Smoke free North East group Fresh has teamed up with the British Lung Foundation to get the message to people who suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) to give up.
The region has England’s highest rate of COPD, an umbrella term for conditions nearly all caused by smoking – which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis – with about 32,000 people suffering from the illnesses.
The campaign includes a television advert called Every Breath, which uses the lyrics of the Police song, to show how it is a progressive disease, and challenges the belief of most smokers that being short of breath is normal.
A survey of smokers in the region found 67 per cent were not aware COPD exists – despite it being the fifth biggest killer in the UK – or its the debilitating effects.
“This campaign is a UK first,” said Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh.
“The North East is the first region in the whole of the country to use COPD in a stop smoking campaign.
“The fact that we are leading the way on this is certainly something to be proud of.”
Dr Ian Taylor, consultant physician and specialist in respiratory medicine at Sunderland Royal Hospital, said: “It can be a cruel disease, but its worst ravages can be prevented by quitting smoking early enough.
“More awareness and education can only be a good thing.
“A person with COPD will experience a much more rapid and severe decline in the function of their lungs, which will make daily life seem a struggle.
“Tasks that they previously took for granted, such as walking up stairs, washing or shopping, become tremendously hard work.”
Pearl Smith, from Seaham, who was diagnosed with COPD in 2007, is among those to back the campaign.
The 54-year-old, who started smoking at 14, began suffering from symptoms in her 40s and was terrified because she felt like she was suffocating.
“It was only when I was diagnosed with COPD that I realised exactly what smoking had been doing to my health over the years. I quit on the spot.
“The biggest regret for me is that I can no longer run around with my grandchildren, take them for walks or do anything active at all with them because I am just too tired.”
Anyone who would like to quit smoking can contact the NHS Smokefree Helpline on 0800 011612.
Alternatively, text FRESH and your postcode to 88088, visit www.everybreath.tv or make an appointment to see your GP.