A dad today urged smokers on Wearside to quit the habit and reduce their risk of developing a disease which has left him fighting for breath every day.
Fresh’s Every Breath campaign is raising awareness of smoking and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), supported by the British Lung Foundation.
The North East is one of the hardest hit regions with an estimated 93,273 people living with the condition.
In Sunderland alone, figures suggest around 12,176 people are living with COPD.
Dad-of-one Colin Docherty, 57, from Sunderland, smoked for many years before deciding to quit 11 years ago following a plea from his daughter Elizabeth, now 18, to stop.
He didn’t know much about COPD but had been living with the symptoms of the condition for years before he was diagnosed six years ago.
“I wish I could go back and stop sooner.”Colin Docherty
He now wishes he could turn back time and pack in cigarettes earlier than he did.
He said: “People don’t think about the years of living with COPD, it’s a slow and horrible condition.
“It’s not the dying that’s the bad part, it’s what you have to go through when you have it. It’s the suffering and that’s much worse.
“My symptoms started with a cough, a lot of mucus, and I was struggling for breath.
“It crept up on me over the years, I just wish I had known about this 20 years ago.
“The damage is done now. It’s too late for me. I will never get better.
“I wish I could go back and stop sooner.”
Elizabeth added: “He has always been breathless for as long as I can remember.
“Whenever he came to pick me up we had to stop every few minutes and he would be struggling for breath.
“We used to have a season ticket for Sunderland but we had to stop that because he just couldn’t get up the stairs.”
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “COPD is a disease that too many smokers are not aware of until they are diagnosed, but research suggests that more than a quarter of smokers will develop it.
“Those figures are truly alarming, especially when so many people who smoke do suffer from early warning signs like feeling short of breath but dismiss them as a “normal” part of smoking.
“Not being able to breathe properly is something nobody wants to happen to them,
“When we ran this campaign in 2011 thousands of people quit as a result which is why we are running it again - it is never too late to quit smoking and it is the best way to reduce the risk.”
Dr Ian Taylor, lead clinician for respiratory at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Smoking is the biggest cause of COPD and every cigarette smoked is damaging the lungs further.
“COPD can also make everyday activities such as walking upstairs, shopping or doing housework difficult.
“It is vital anyone with the early warning signs of feeling out of breath quits before they get to that stage.”
To get your quit attempt underway, call Sunderland Live Life Well on 0800 107 0741 or ask at your GP surgery or pharmacy.