Quit smoking adverts highlight toxic risk to brain

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Media captionA new advert highlights the dangers of toxins in smoke

A new public health campaign in England is highlighting the toxic damage tobacco smoke does to vital organs such as the brain, as well as the lungs.

The TV adverts warn how smoke makes blood "dirty and thick with toxins" which then circulate in the body, increasing the risks of a stroke.

"If you could see the damage, you'd stop", say the adverts, aimed at encouraging smokers to quit.

Smokers are twice as likely to die of stroke as non-smokers.

They are also at greater risk of developing memory problems and dementia.

The new campaign goes live on 30 December and offers support, advice and a range of tools for anyone looking to stop smoking.

'Not all doom'

Chief medical officer Prof Dame Sally Davies said: "We know about the serious effect smoking has on the heart and lungs but smokers need to be aware of how much potential damage is being done to the brain and other vital organs through toxins in cigarettes entering the blood.

"Smoking is the major cause of premature death, with one in two smokers dying prematurely from smoking-related diseases, and it is extremely worrying that people still underestimate the health harms associated with it.

"However, it is not all doom and gloom for smokers looking to quit this New Year. Within five years of stopping smoking, your risk of stroke can be reduced to the same as a lifetime non-smoker."

Prof Kevin Fenton, national director for health and wellbeing for Public Health England, told BBC News: "Tar, arsenic, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide - these all have either effects that they can cause cancers or they can cause significant amounts of damage to the lining of blood vessels.

"We really want to draw attention to that toxic nature of cigarette smoke and the ways it can be dealt with - which are either to stop smoking or to switch to healthier nicotine delivery systems - for example nicotine patches etc."

Prof Fenton added more needed to be done to encourage people to quit smoking.

"That's why this campaign is so important - and doing it at the time of the New Year when people are making resolutions really will help to support many smokers to make that decision to quit."

Former smoker John Lee, who had a stroke at the age of 42 which paralysed his left side, told BBC News it had come "completely out of the blue" after he returned from playing golf in Portugal.

"The children have gone from having a dad that can run around and play football and do everything with them, to basically being able to do nothing."

Around a quarter of adults in the UK smoke.

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