Speech by Mr. Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children on the occasion of the launch of Every Cigarette is Doing You Damage and the National Smokers´ Quitline


I am delighted, today, to launch the new National Smoking Cessation Campaign – Every Cigarette is Doing You Damage, the most comprehensive, hard hitting and wide ranging smoking cessation campaign ever undertaken by the Health Promotion Unit of my Department.

We know that seven out of every ten smokers want to quit. We also know that many smokers find campaigns that simply preach at them about their smoking at least irritating and at worst counter productive. In addition, therefore, to raising awareness of the health damages from smoking, this campaign offers smokers support through the introduction, from today, of the National Smokers´ Quitline. Callers to the Quitline will be provided with advice, support and counselling to help them through the quitting process.

Smoking Facts

Earlier this year, at the launch of the National Health and Lifestyle Survey, SLÁN, I was pleased to announce a 4% overall decline in the prevalence of smoking in Ireland since 1998 to 27%. Despite the positive trends, there is no room for complacency on this compelling health issue that affects so many smokers.

The evidence is indisputable.

We know

  • Not smoking or in the case of existing smokers – giving up – is the single most important thing people can do to protect their health.
  • Around 7,500 people die in Ireland, every year, from smoking related illnesses.
  • Over 90% of all lung cancers are directly attributable to smoking.
  • Smoking is a major cause of heart disease, bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Cigarettes are a cocktail of identifiable, harmful and toxic chemicals.

In summary ladies and gentlemen, we know that every cigarette is doing damage.

From a public health point of view, there is no acceptable level of tobacco consumption and I make no apology for making the fight against smoking one of my top priorities as Minister for Health.

Addressing smoking prevalence requires a comprehensive approach. There are many individuals and agencies that have a role to play, from smokers to their families and friends to government.

It is no longer good enough to simply tell people to stop smoking. Yes, we need to bring in tough legislation into the area of tobacco control, which I have done over the last two years. Yes, we do have a responsibility to provide information and advice and to offer support to smokers who are attempting to quit.

I acknowledge that giving up smoking is not an easy task to undertake. The fact that smoking is addictive and habitual is an intrinsic part of the challenge we face in encouraging people to quit. However, if we can encourage smokers to think about the dangers of smoking and at the same time offer them help and encouragement to change their behaviour, then much will have been achieved. That in essence is what this campaign is about.

National Campaign

Every Cigarette is Doing you Damage is an advertising campaign, developed in Australia and now used by over 50 other countries worldwide, including Northern Ireland.

The advertisement, which will be shown to you shortly, while graphic in its detail, is factual in its approach, serving as a reminder of the dangers from smoking and the actual affect smoking has on a smoker’s body.

The advertising campaign, which is hard-hitting and high profile- running across TV, radio, print media and outdoor poster sites -will bring home the stark realities of smoking in a memorable, impactful and perhaps disturbing way. Balanced with this, the campaign advises people of the support they can access to quit smoking, through the new National Smokers´ Quitline.

National Smokers´ Quitline

The advertising and media campaign, together with the introduction of the ban on smoking in the workplace from January 26th, 2004 will increase the demand for smoking cessation support services both nationally and regionally. This is a challenge that the health services must be prepared to meet.

Against this background, I am delighted to announce the launch of the National Smokers’ Quitline. I believe that the Quitline will be instrumental in encouraging and supporting many smokers to quit. The service can be accessed every day from 8am to 10pm. As you will see from the ads, smokers who ring the Call save number 1850 201 203 will have the option of:

  • availing of on line counselling by trained staff
  • being referred for professional help in their own local area, or
  • simply having an information pack sent to them by post.

The National Smokers´ Quitline is a substantial undertaking and investment. However, I firmly believe that this service is critical in terms of both the encouragement and support it can offer to smokers who wish to quit.

I would urge smokers, whether they are considering or actually attempting to quit, to avail of the National Smokers´ Quitline. For the price of a local call, a small fraction of the price of a packet of cigarettes, smokers can start to reap the benefits of a smoke free life.

Young People

This campaign is aimed at the whole population. However, eight out of ten adult smokers become addicted in their teenage years. While we believe that this campaign will discourage young people from smoking, we know that campaigns targeted exclusively at young people are also required to help reduce the prevalence of smoking in the long term.

In that regard I have asked the Health Promotion Unit of my department to consider further options for developing campaigns targeted exclusively at young people.

National Smoking Cessation Steering Group

I would like to thank the National Smoking Cessation Steering Group, chaired by the Health Promotion Unit of my department, for developing this campaign and for co-ordinating the smoking cessation services throughout the country to respond to the demand. Under the Cardiovascular Health Strategy, smoking cessation services have trebled in the last three years so that today, Ireland has 50 smoking cessation officers providing support to smokers wishing to quit, as well as training health professionals in this area.

I would like to pay particular tribute to the Irish Cancer Society for working in partnership with the Health Promotion Unit in establishing the National Smokers´ Quitline. I would like to thank the many other organisations for their dedication and expertise in developing this campaign, the health boards, the Health Boards Executive, the Irish Heart Foundation, ASH Ireland, the Office of Tobacco Control, the Health and Safety Authority and to the health professional groups, the Irish College of General Practice, the Irish Pharmaceutical Union and the Irish Dental Federation for prioritising, informing and training your members on their role in providing smoking cessation support to the public.

Ladies and Gentlemen, seven smokers out of ten today want to give up. Let us drive this campaign forward together to make this want a reality.