A grandad warned he could lose a limb or suffer a stroke has urged others to join him and quit smoking.
Ex-miner Wilfred Curry, 71, from Peterlee, started smoking when he left school like many of his friends.
He said I should stop smoking and that if I have any more blockages I might have to have my leg amputated.Wilfred Curry
He smoked up to 25 cigarettes a day at the height of his habit.
But he was spurred to give up after he was first warned he would have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) within five years and was already a borderline case after he started getting out of breath.
He was dealt another blow when doctors discovered a pain in his left calf was due to a blockage in the artery caused by smoking.
The grandad-of-six said: “He said I should stop smoking and that if I have any more blockages I might have to have my leg amputated.
“In fact he said that if I did not quit he might seriously think about not treating me.
“I was surprised to learn that smoking could cause problems in my legs.
“I’ve previously had varicose veins which I’ve had taken out, but then I gradually started to notice problems in my calf.
“These days you do hear more about health problems like thrombosis, but I’d never have thought an issue in my calf would have been caused by a blockage in my thigh as a result of smoking.
“I had thought about quitting smoking before.
“Speaking to the surgeon finally gave me the impetus to do it.
“His secretary referred me to the local stop smoking service who talked to me about the different options.
“The cravings only lasted about two days.
“At first I was feeling a bit hitchy, but I’ve got no regrets at all about quitting.
“I don’t miss smoking at all.”
Now Wilfred is getting more exercise, cycling each day, and is enjoying having more money in his pocket.
He has shared his experiences as experts warn those who have cut down still face significant risks of cancer and heart disease unless they quit or switch.
Fresh, which aims to reduce smoking-related illnesses in the region, is re-launching the Don’t be the 1 campaign.
It warns half of all long-term smokers will die from the habit.
That means of the North East’s 392,000 smokers, 196,000 people are at risk.
The campaign first ran in 2014 after a survey found nine out of 10 smokers underestimate the one-in-two risk.
Anyone who would like help to stop smoking can speak to their GP or pharmacist.