Smokers across Norfolk are being urged to give up cigarettes for a month when this year’s Stoptober campaign launches on the first day of October.

In its fourth year, the 28-day challenge will be once again calling on the county’s smokers to quit and there has never been a better time to stop smoking with quitting success rates higher this year than ever before.

In Norfolk, it is estimated that 18% of adults smoke and in Norfolk between 2010 and 2012, 4,538 people died from smoking-related illnesses. It is never too late to stop smoking – each cigarette shortens your life by 5-6 minutes.

Last year 277 people in Norfolk signed up to the Stoptober campaign, with 146 patients kicking the habit successfully thanks to the support of stop smoking services funded by Norfolk County Council Public Health. Margaret Dewsbury, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Communities Committee, said: “The Stoptober campaign is vitally important as it provides another way of reaching out to people who smoke who perhaps haven’t had the support to kick the habit previously. Throughout the month, there will be a number of services available to encourage Norfolk’s smokers to quit.

“People need to be physically, mentally and emotionally ready to give up smoking and we hope that by having support services available, we can help provide the boost they need.”

Research shows that people who do quit for 28 days are five times more likely to give up for good and those who stop smoking for 28 days and longer will begin to experience financial, physical and health benefits. These include a better sense of taste and smell as well as a reduced risk of lung cancer and heart disease.

Dr Louise Smith, Director of Public Health for Norfolk, said: “National figures show that Norfolk has particular problems in relation to women smoking in pregnancy and people over 35 who have to go to hospital to be treated for illnesses caused by smoking.

“Smoking is the biggest cause of premature death in England and each year it accounts for over 80,000 deaths with one in two long-term smokers dying prematurely from a smoking-related disease.

“2.5 million smokers nation-wide attempted to kick the habit last year with 20% of these being successful. We want to improve these statistics, and people taking part in Stoptober will be provided with a detailed 28-day step-by-step programme to support them and improve their chances of quitting successfully. Everyone’s quitting journey is different, and whichever method they choose, Stoptober can support them.”

Peter Metcalf, a 71 year old grandfather who lives in Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, gave up smoking 10 years ago after making a pledge to his granddaughter who had told him she had started smoking.

Peter comments, “I told her; if she gave up smoking then I would too!”

With the help of his local GP as part of the smoke free Norfolk campaign, Peter joined a stop smoking group run by Katie, a stop-smoking advisor at Smokefree Norfolk, the stop smoking service provided by Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCH&C) and found that kicking the habit as part of a group really helped: “the group was a great way to give up smoking – it was helpful hearing everyone’s stories as to why they were giving up as it made me realise that we were all in the same boat and made me even more determined to quit.”

Everyone’s quitting journey is different, and Peter tried numerous quitting methods such as nicotine patches and plastic cigarettes, and found that “the hardest thing was keeping my hands occupied – I found the dummy cigarettes really helpful especially when I went fishing.”

Peter urges that “it’s never too late” to give up smoking but he’s relieved he has been successfully “quit” for ten years; “my health isn’t brilliant but at my last health check I was told my lung capacity has improved since giving up which has got to be a good thing.”

“I encourage others to give it a go, but don’t do it by yourself – giving up in a group was much easier and I couldn’t have done it without my advisor Katie. That’s why I get in contact with her every year to tell her that I’m still smoke free.”

If you want to kick the habit like Peter, support is available from two main stop smoking services for people in Norfolk, depending on where they live. Most of the county is covered by Smokefree Norfolk, the stop smoking service provided by Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCH&C), while support in Great Yarmouth and Waveney is provided by East Coast Community Healthcare. You can also seek help from your GP, practice nurse or community pharmacist.

A range of information is available online too, providing a variety of free and proven support through the website (simply search Stoptober online), app, email and social media – including Facebook Messenger which is new to the campaign this year.

Why not follow Peter’s advice and get in touch with one of Norfolk’s friendly, experienced advisors? They can offer one-to-one and group support, as well as mouth sprays, patches, and gum.

• Call 0800 652 3477 (Great Yarmouth and Waveney)

Text QUIT and your name to 65000

• Call 0800 0854 113 (rest of Norfolk)

Text bfree and your name to 65000