The following seven names my not mean anything to the average person: John Lynch from Derry, Florence Leonard from Maguiresbridge, Raymond Cairns from Lisburn, Ronald McKitterick from Belfast, Paddy McKenna-Gallagher from Belfast, Gary Hamilton from Castlederg and Jamie-Lee Peden from Belfast. However, what is special about them is that they have all proudly kicked the smoking habit as a result in taking part in a smoking cessation programme and have become the poster boys and girls for No Smoking Day 2018.

The Healthy Living Centre Alliance and the Public Health Agency have again combined forces to take No Smoking Day into as many local communities as possible. Tony Doherty, Regional Coordinator of the HLC Alliance said ‘Smoking is a big deal for smokers, their families and wider social circles. It has a major effect on physical health putting smokers and those living with them at heightened risk of cancers, heart disease and stroke. Not only that, it also has a major impact on the pocket with smokers often shelling out more than £5,000 per year to feed the habit.

Smokers: turn your ash into cash!

‘Healthy Living Centre staff will be available to advise smokers how to convert their ASH into CASH.  If you think of the money Ronald McKitterick spent on his 50 years smoking it would amount to a whopping £250,000. Since he stopped he says he has “saved up to £35000 plus over 12 years and 3 months.  I have been able to buy a new car every 2/3 years and have a least 2 holidays yearly.”

‘The Alliance has prioritised smoking as an area of special attention and this is the fourth year we have mobilised our Healthy Living Centres on No Smoking Day. This year we have planned several dozen events in four of the five Trust areas in the north with engagements taking place in shopping centres, shops, pharmacies, youth clubs, schools and community centres as far apart as Loughguile and Irvingstown, Castlederg and Downpatrick and East Belfast and Derry’s Bogside.’

Colette Rogers, Regional Lead for Tobacco from the Public Health Agency said: "Studies have shown that smokers are four times more likely to succeed in quitting with help from stop smoking services than if they do it alone.

“Events organised by the Healthy Living Centre on No Smoking Day provide an excellent opportunity for people who would like to stop smoking to go along and find out more about the local services and support available to help them quit.

“Many people are already celebrating their quit success, achieved with support from their local Healthy Living Centre and pharmacist, so we would encourage you to go along to these events on No Smoking Day so you too can be proud to be a quitter!

“You can also access further information on stop smoking services at www.want2stop.info”

Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum

This year for No Smoking Day the Health Forum have been engaging with people in Strand Bingo, Foyle Family Practice, Tesco’s in Quayside Shopping Centre, Lumen Christi, Lettershandoney Community Centre, Rainbow Child and Family Centre and International Woman’s event in the Gasyard. We have teamed up with the Foyle Hospice and asking smokers to give up smoking on No Smoking Day and get sponsorship for the Foyle Hospice. If you would like more information or advice please contact us on our Facebook page; Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum or contact the office on 02871365330.

This year’s Proud Quitters are as follows:

Florence Leonard is 59 and only gave up in 2017.

Raymond Cairns is 52 and had smoked since he was 12 years old.

Ronald McKitterick is 78 and had smoked since he was 11 years old.

Paddy McKenna-Gallagher is 33 and had smoked since he was 19 years old.

Gary Hamilton is 34 and only gave up in 2017.

John Lynch is 34 and smoked for 15 years until he gave them up in 2013.

Jamie-Lee Peden is 28 and smoked for 10 years until he gave them up last year.

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email [email protected] or [email protected] at any time.