Smoking campaign focuses on the brain

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A new stop-smoking campaign is to highlight the damage done to smokers’ bodies each time they light up.

The Smokefree Health Harms campaign, launched by Public Health England, warns that inhaling toxic chemicals in cigarettes, including arsenic and cyanide, damages major organs and increases the risk of stroke and dementia. The poisons move to the brain and damage cells.

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “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.”

Health expert Professor Kevin Fenton said: “More than eight million people smoke in England. With half of long-term smokers dying prematurely from a smoking-related disease, highlighting the unseen damaging effect smoking has on the body’s major organs provides a real motivation for people to stop.”

Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson, of University College London, said: “Accelerated decline in cognitive reasoning and memory is more advanced in smokers, with one of our studies at UCL showing it to be nearly 38 per cent faster in persistent male smokers compared to non-smokers.

“The decline in the brain’s cognitive powers is naturally seen with ageing but there are a number of identifiable risk factors, including smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, which can be associated with an accelerated rate of decline.”

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