Businesses in Derry are being urged to take part in a new Northern Ireland-wide initiative to help support employees who want to stop smoking.
The “Workplace 28 day stop smoking challenge” will be launched on 1 October next by the Public Health Agency (PHA) and businesses being urged sign up to help employees who smoke to give up their habit.
Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness, premature death and health inequality throughout the North.
Each year, around 2,300 people die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses such as coronary heart disease, stroke and many cancers.
Thirty-two per cent of routine and manual workers here smoke, and for many, smoke breaks are part of their daily routine at work. This makes the workplace the ideal setting for breaking their smoking habit.
Gerry Bleakney, Strategic Lead for Tobacco Control with the PHA, said helping employees to stop smoking not only benefited the individuals themselves, but also had a positive impact on the organisation as a whole as it helped to deliver better health in the workforce, increased productivity, improved staff morale and reduced absence due to sickness.
She added: “We want to encourage and support more routine and manual workers to stop smoking and are calling for businesses to work with us to make this happen.
“The challenge encourages smokers to give up smoking for 28 days, because research shows that if a person stops smoking for 28 days or more, they are five times more likely to stop for good.
“There is also a financial benefit for workers who stop smoking – with the cost of tobacco now at an all-time high, quitting a 20-a-day habit will deliver an average £2,920 a year saving, which is a nice addition to the pay packet and could pay for a great holiday or to clear bills.
“Registering your interest in participating as a business is easy – just visit www.want2stop.info, click on the ‘Workplace Challenge’ icon and follow the business registration link.
“The website is packed with information and resources regarding the challenge and contact details for our specialist stop smoking workplace advisers.
“Alternatively, if you do not wish to register as a business, you can still promote the challenge among your workforce and encourage individual smokers to register.
“There are more than 600 free stop smoking specialist services across Northern Ireland that they can avail of.”
For more information and useful tips to help you stop smoking, visit the PHA’s “Want 2 Stop” website at www.want2stop.info and order a “Quit Kit” free of charge.
Alternatively, contact the Smokers’ Helpline on 0808 812 8008.”