A SOUTH Tyneside councillor, whose wife died of a smoking-related lung disease, is urging people to quit.
The heartfelt plea came from Coun Bill Brady and follows the launch of anti-smoking group Fresh’s hard-hitting ‘Don’t be the 1’ campaign which reveals that one in two long-term smokers will die early, and coincided with national No Smoking Day on Wednesday.
Having smoked since she was a teenager, Coun Brady’s wife, Mavis, was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in her early 60s.
After a long health battle with heart and kidney problems, she died in her husband’s arms in May 2012, aged 76.
The heartache of losing a loved one to a smoking-related disease made the Whiteleas representative quit smoking.
The father-of-two said: “We smoked for most of our lives. Mavis started smoking as a teenager and I picked up my first cigarette when I was 10.
“We used to smoke at work, at home and when we went out to places like the pictures.
“It was a different era back then. You could smoke more or less anywhere.
“It was fashionable and you didn’t think about the risks. If we had, things might have been different.
“Mavis had been poorly because of her smoking for a long time. It was a real battle for her.
“In her early 60s, she had breathing difficulties and started using inhalers every day as she was often short of breath.
“She also suffered heart problems too. Then she was diagnosed with the smoking-related COPD.
“Five years ago, she went for a scan of her lungs and the doctors found a tumour on her kidney.
“It was such a devastating shock for the family. After an operation to remove the whole kidney, Mavis stopped smoking for a while.
“She wanted to quit for good and knew it was killing her, but she was so addicted that she couldn’t stop once and for all.”
As the biggest preventable cause of death in the North East, smoking results in more than 2,000 hospital appointments and over 29,000 GP appointments in South Tyneside every year, costing the NHS in the borough more than £7.4m a year. Coun Brady added “I’ll never forget that day. Mavis was feeling poorly and left the sitting room to go outside to be sick. I followed her to try to help and comfort her.
“Sadly, it turned out to be the worst day of my life. My dear wife had a massive haemorrhage and died in my arms. It was a dreadful time for all of us.
“My favourite cigarette of the day used to be the one that I had with a cup of tea in the afternoon.
“The day after Mavis’s death, I was having my cigarette and had a flashback to her awful death. I decided, there and then, that I had to give up smoking. I threw away the last cigarettes and I’ve stuck to my vow.”
Fresh is now encouraging smokers to click on DontBeThe1.tv for support to quit and to order a free Quit Kit online.
Anyone worried about a friend or relative smoking can also send them an e-card telling them they care and urging them to stop.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “Every day 11 people die in the North East from a smoking-related disease. Every death is someone’s mum, dad, brother or sister, son, daughter or friend.
“The tragedy is most probably got addicted to smoking in childhood and put off quitting.
“Sadly, Bill’s story is one of many that highlights the heartbreaking truth of how smoking continues to destroy lives and tear families apart in our region.”