For smokers 2020 was a great year to quit. One estimate found a million people had quit during the first lockdown and hundreds of thousands have maintained that success with 2020 having the highest rates of successful quitting on record. Now a powerful new film commissioned by Southend Borough Council – and generously made available to every local authority in the country – tells the stories of some of those who made the quitting journey in this turbulent year and calls on others to ‘put it down, put it out.’
The film is the work of spoken word artist Megan Cannon. When Southend Borough Council approached her about the project she was not immediately enthusiastic: ‘smoking cessation just didn’t sound very interesting.’ But she found the stories of those who had used the council’s stop smoking service inspiring.
‘We asked people who’d quit using the stop smoking services loads of questions and their responses were so powerful and full of emotion. I couldn’t wait to put the stories together and create this piece, which I hope can inspire others to give up smoking too.’
Aline Clayson was one of the successful quitters filmed as part of the project:
‘I liked smoking and I’d never tried to quit before, but my sister dying from lung disease was the wake-up call I needed. I walked past a stand on the street offering the help of the local stop smoking service, and I thought now’s the time. I’d recommend anyone to do the same, the help they gave me made all the difference.’
Now winter’s here she’s so glad she’s no longer smoking:
‘I’m saving so much money, smoking used to cost me at least £12 a day. But that’s not all. At this time of year I usually have the worst cough ever, which lasts for weeks. It would put an awful pressure on my chest, like I’ve been doing press-ups all day. This year nothing, I can breathe freely, it’s such a relief and I know it’s because I’ve quit smoking.’
Aline loved being part of the film:
‘I’m so happy to be able to encourage others to quit too. I smoked from the age of 13, that’s over 40 years. No-one says it’s going to be easy but my message is, if I can do it you can too.’
With support from Southend Council, and the film-makers, a specially adapted version is now being made available for other councils to use to encourage people to quit over the New Year and beyond. Stop smoking services around the country have moved online or over the phone to continue to support people during coronavirus. Data from NHS Digital shows that the services have managed to maintain a high level of support during this time.
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, who are supporting the roll out of the film, said:
‘This has been a tough year, but local councils have shown they are more than up to the challenge, showing tremendous commitment to their local communities during the pandemic. Stop Smoking Services have continued to operate, despite councils having to pretty much rebuild them from scratch to provide socially distanced support delivered remotely. If you are planning to quit for 2021 search smokefree and find your local service, it can make all the difference.’