In 2011, Gerry Collins was one of three people featured in the QUIT campaign's films and TV adverts, telling his story of recovery from tobacco-related throat cancer. In summer 2013, Gerry contacted the HSE to let us know that, sadly, he had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Gerry also asked us if this new chapter in his story could form a new phase of the QUIT campaign. We made a series of very powerful ads featuring Gerry, his friends and family, which were launched in early 2014. Gerry died from tobacco-related lung cancer on March 2nd, 2014, and is sadly missed.
Gerry and his family allowed us a window into their family life, and into how they coped with and reacted to Gerry's diagnosis. By working with us to create hard-hitting films and TV commercials; discussing his smoking, his illness, his expected death and the anticipated loss to his family; Gerry hoped to inspire other people to quit smoking and help them to avoid the pain of illness and premature separation from their loved ones.
The response to Gerry's three adverts has been phenomonal and Gerry has inspired in excess of 100,000 quit attempts in Ireland since the beginning of 2014. In the ads, he shares his thoughts about smoking and his terminal illness, and his gratitude for his family and friends. He ends these ads with a simple appeal to smokers -'Don't smoke, don't start, and if you have, stop.'
Gerry was extremely proud of these new ads, and was looking forward to their being aired. It is tragic that he did not live to see them all broadcast, or to experience the further admiration, support and gratitude that the ads would have delivered to him, and that he so warmly deserves. Gerry's QUIT campaign adverts were created on the shared understanding with Gerry and his family that they would continue to be used after Gerry had died, and the Collins family have decided that these adverts should be aired as planned, in accordance with Gerry's wishes.
When Gerry launched his first ad in January 2014, he said; 'There were three reasons I decided I wanted to do this - firstly it was for myself; a positive thing for me to invest my energy in while dealing with my cancer. Secondly, I thought it would be good for my family, creating something powerful and meaningful for my kids to look back on. And finally, if even one person stops smoking because of what we've done, then it will all be worth it for me.'
Using the numbers of people signing up to online QUITplans since the first ad aired in January as a marker, we estimate that over 100,000 people in Ireland made quit attempts in 2014, thanks to Gerry. We also know that the overall number of smokers reduced in Ireland by 1.5% in 2014, the largest annual reduction seen in many years.
You can QUIT
Quitting smoking is the best thing that you can do for your health, and if you use one the range of support services available, you can as much as double your chances of your quit attempt succeeding. Also, if you’ve tried before and it didn’t work, remember most smokers make several attempts before quitting for good. The trick is to keep on trying, because the change you can bring about in your health and your life is worth it.
If you smoke, remember you can QUIT and we can help:
Visit www.quit.ie and sign up for an online QUIT plan
Call the HSE Quit Team 1800 201 203 or FREETEXT QUIT to 50100
Join our Facebook support group www.facebook.com/HSEquit
Contact your local HSE smoking cessation service via QUIT.ie
Talk to your GP or pharmacist for help, and also supports and medications