HSE media campaign tells smokers: ‘You can QUIT, and we can help.’

Monday 13th June 2011

 The HSE today (Monday June 13) begins a new health education campaign aimed at encouraging smokers to quit. Smoking is the single biggest cause of illness, disability and death in Ireland.  By encouraging smokers to quit and reducing the numbers of smokers in Ireland, we can reduce the level of illness and deaths caused by tobacco use, and reduce the cost of treating those illnesses, which will benefit everyone in our society.

The new campaign is based on the stark fact, which is not well known among the public – 1 in every 2 smokers will die of a tobacco related disease.  This fact highlights the serious impact that smoking has not only on the smoker themselves but also their friends, family and loved ones.

Dr. Fenton Howell, HSE Director of Public Health, introduces the new campaign:  ‘Surprisingly only 7% of people know that 1 in every 2 smokers will die of a tobacco related disease.  Our aim is to make people realise the effect smoking has on their health, and that of their loved ones, and give them encouragement and help to QUIT. 

‘We all know someone who has been ill or died as a result of a tobacco related disease.  By prompting smokers to try and quit, by offering support services, encouragement, help and advice we can all encourage smokers to keep trying to quit.’

80% of smokers say they want to quit and 40% try to quit every year.  This campaign highlights the range of supports available to smokers to encourage them to try to quit and advice on what they can do to ensure their quit attempt succeeds.  Most people quit successfully after a few attempts, and while many go it along on will power, those quitters who use supports like our National Smokers’ Quitline, online help, smoking cessation services or medications are twice as likely to succeed.

Dr Howell emphasized that ‘smokers know that cigarettes are bad for them.  Many of them feel that quitting is too hard, that they won’t make it – or that they will do it tomorrow, next month, when they’re 30, or when they’re 40.  Our campaign will remind smokers that it’s never too late, and that quitting is worth it.  Most people try to quit a few times before quitting for good, and each time, they gain skills and confidence that help them to take that permanent step.’

Visit www.QUIT.ie and sign up for an online quitplan or

Find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/HSEquit

‘The message to all smokers in Ireland: 1 in 2 smokers will die of a tobacco related disease, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can QUIT.’

There are about 1 million smokers in Ireland and, each year, 5,500 Irish people die of a tobacco related disease. Many thousands more lives are shattered by the illness, disability and bereavement that cigarettes cause. We estimate that between €1 and €2 billion euro is spent each year by the HSE in treating tobacco related diseases.

The HSE has joined with a range of key health organisations to ensure that campaign has maximum impact and support across the health sector. Partners include the Irish Cancer Society, Irish Heart Foundation, Irish College of General Practitioners, Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, Irish Dental Association, ASH Ireland, Asthma Society of Ireland, TobaccoFree Research Institute, Environmental Health Officers Associtation, National Youth Council of Ireland, Irish Thoracic Society, Royal College of Physicians in Ireland and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

For help to QUIT smoking:

Call the National Smokers’ Quitline 1850 201 203

Contact HSE smoking cessation services, details on HSE.ie or QUIT.ie

Talk to your GP or Pharmacist


We have developed a range of advertisement and information materials based on presenting the 1 in 2 statistic. The campaign highlights the relationships we have with the people close to us and how smoking can shatter them, using the faces and voices of real Irish people who smoke, alongside their partners, friends or parents.  We then ask the smoker – Can you live with that? The campaign then points to our quitline, our QUIT.ie website, or our smoking cessation services nationwide, for help and support.

Evidence from around the world shows that campaigns like this have an important role in reducing smoking rates over their lifetimes.  We also know that the tobacco control campaigns which work best are the ones which take a hard-hitting tone, warning of the dangers of smoking – why to quit – and then offer a range of supports to help people to try to stop – how to quit.

The campaign starts on June 13th, with radio and outdoor advertising, national and regional public relations and online activity.  Subsequent phases of advertising later this year will broadcast on television and on radio.  The QUIT campaign has a strong online presence via a new www.QUIT.ie website and a dedicated Facebook community at www.facebook.com/HSEquit, both of which support smokers along the way to giving up.  We are producing printed information that will be displayed at health facilities, hospitals, primary care centres, and also at social welfare offices, public libraries, MABS and Citizens Information Centres.



The evidence base for this campaign message comes from a study which is often called “The Doctors Study” (Doll R, Peto R, Wheatley K, Gray R, Sutherland I. Mortality in relation to smoking: 40 years observations on male British doctors. British Medical Journal 1994; 309:901-911).   This study started in 1951 in the UK, had a 40 year follow-up, and was finally published in 1994.  It found that we had substantially underestimated the hazards of long term tobacco use.  It showed that half of all regular cigarette smokers will eventually be killed by their habit.   

A further study 10 years later on the same study participants confirmed the findings.  In fact, it suggested that the situation might be worse, in that up to two thirds of smokers could be killed by their smoking (Doll R, Peto Boreham J, Sutherland I. Mortality in relation to smoking: 50 years observations on male British doctors. British Medical Journal 2004; 328(7455):1519).

A recent review published in 2008 found that tobacco control programmes that include a mass media campaign can help to reduce levels of smoking among adults (Bala M, Strzeszynski L, Cahill K. Mass media interventions for smoking cessation in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD004704. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004704.pub2).


The World Health Organisation and the US Centers for Disease Control(WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008. The MPOWER package) recommend that governments spend US $2-4 per person per year on anti-tobacco health communication and counter advertising efforts.


Data from other countries and the WHO says that in developed countries, between 5-15% of the total health budget is spent on treating tobacco related disease – in Ireland, this amounts to between €1 and €2 billion every year.  Recent Irish data shows an average cost of €7,700 every time a smoker is admitted  to hospital with a tobacco related disease. In 2008, there were over 36,000 such admissions.  That cost does not include out-patient costs, GP visits, medicines and other supports provided by the HSE.

The QUIT campaign is a major preventative health education priority for the HSE.  If we can prevent just 100 of the 36,000 annual admissions to hospital with tobacco related disease, the campaign will pay for itself.


Last updated on: 13 / 06 / 2011