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Powerful new anti-smoking campaign highlights reality of smoking and stroke

Posted 30 May, 2018

An emotional anti-smoking campaign, showing the debilitating suffering stroke can inflict is being launched today, World No Tobacco Day, by Quit Victoria and Stroke Foundation.

The campaign, which airs on radio, TV, outdoor and online in Victoria from Sunday, highlights the link between smoking and the risk of stroke.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said smoking doubles the risk of stroke, but the link between smoking and stroke is ‘top of mind’ for just 6% of Victorian smokers .

“Smoking kills two in three long-term users, but before death, there is often a lot of suffering. This powerful new campaign aims to highlight the link between smoking and strokes and show that when you have a smoking-related stroke, you – and also your loved ones – can be forced to endure unimaginable misery,” Dr White said.

“We’re urging the one in eight Victorians who still smoke to consider how they would feel if they had to rely on their families day in, day out, to perform simple tasks such as going to the toilet, eating and showering. 

“This ad is difficult to watch, but it would be incredibly more painful to experience. Quitting smoking is vital for reducing your risk of stroke and other potentially fatal health problems.”

The new TV ad shows a woman, who has suffered a stroke, lying in bed staring blankly at the ceiling, wearing an oxygen tube. She is gurgling and breathing in a laboured manner, and seems to be in pain. Her husband enters the bedroom and turns her, then holds her hand to offer some comfort. 

Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan said stroke kills more women than breast cancer, more men than prostate cancer and leaves thousands of Australians with ongoing disabilities. But many strokes can be prevented. 

“This year alone there will be more than 56,000 new and recurrent strokes in Australia – that is one stroke every nine minutes,’’ Ms McGowan said.

“Of those who survive these strokes, almost two-thirds will be left with some form of disability inhibiting their ability to carry out everyday activities. Many young adult survivors struggle to return to work after stroke causing increased hardship for them and their families. 

“But the good news is, as many as 80 percent of strokes may be prevented through lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, keeping blood pressure in check and getting enough physical activity can all reduce your stroke risk. ” 

Melbourne father-of-two Bill Gasiamis knows the emotional and physical pain associated with stroke first hand.

After decades of social smoking, he has suffered two strokes, the first aged just 38.

“I remember waking up in hospital. There was a strange lady at the end of my bed. It was my wife, but I didn’t recognise her. She asked me ‘do you know who I am?’ and I said ‘no’,” Bill recalls.

“A doctor said ‘you’ve had a stroke’. That was one of the toughest moments of my life.”

For the next six months, Bill had to relearn everything.

“I was affected quite severely. I had to try and recover my memory and learn to finish sentences, type an email and get back to driving and work. It was a pretty traumatic time,” he said. 

Now 43, Bill is now encouraging others to quit smoking and reduce their risk of stroke.

“I thought it would never happen to me, but if I knew how difficult it is to recover from stroke, and how difficult it is to support your family financially after having a stroke, I would have stopped smoking a long time ago,” Bill said.

“Consider how difficult it’s going to be for the rest of your life if you can’t walk properly and someone else has to care for you. 

“No one wants smoking to shorten their life. Quit now so you can be around for your kids and your wife and your family.”

Dr White said quitting was the best thing you can do for your health, no matter how long you’ve been smoking.

“Quitting smoking will improve your health no matter what your age, and the benefits are immediate,” she said. 

“There are plenty of tools and resources available via the Quitline or on the Quit website to help you make a plan to quit and set yourself up for success.

“Some people will try to quit multiple times before they succeed, but no one has to try alone.”

For more quitting advice, visit quit.org.au or call the Quitline on 13 7848.

For more on smoking and stroke risk, head to quit.org.au/articles/smokesleadtostrokes/

ENDS

Quit Victoria is a partnership between VicHealth, the State Government of Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria and the Heart Foundation.

Stroke Foundation partners with the community to prevent, treat and beat stroke. We do this through raising awareness, facilitating research and supporting stroke survivors.

In a 2017 Cancer Council Victoria survey, just 5.6% of current Victorian smokers stated that smoking causes stroke when asked what illnesses were attributable to smoking. The survey of 4,000 randomly sampled Victorian adults, (aged 18 years and over) were interviewed during the Victorian Smoking and Health Survey (VSHS), an annual, cross-sectional telephone survey, conducted between late October and early December 2017.

Media release

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