Smokers Encouraged to Swap Fags for Gags

Posted on: 8 September 2014

Stoptober 2014 enrols country’s top comedians to help smokers get through the 28 day quitting challenge.

Stoptober, the 28-day stop smoking challenge from Public Health England is encouraging smokers in Mid Devon to swap their fags for gags, to help them quit for good this October.

Top British comedians including Paddy McGuinness, Al Murray, Simon Brodkin (aka Lee Nelson, Jason Bent and Dr Bob) and Andi Osho will this year bring a touch of the British sense of humour to help quitters through this difficult and daunting challenge.

Smoking is no laughing matter and neither is quitting. Two-thirds of smokers say they want to quit[1] but only four in ten told a recent survey that they have tried in the last year.[2] There is no doubt that quitting is tough, but it is known that people who quit do feel better in time.3

The 2013 campaign saw 250,000 people across the country take part and 65% of those successfully quitting for 28 days. In Devon 2,866 people signed up to take part in Stoptober 2013. Public Health England is hoping even more will get involved this year by searching ‘Stoptober’ online and signing up.

Stoptober will launch on the 8th September with a three-minute TV ‘sketch show’ during the Emmerdale ad break, fronted by the leading comedy line up and surprise guests. It will then be followed by a three-week recruitment campaign to get as many smokers as possible in Mid Devon ready to quit on 1st October. The 28-day stop smoking programme will include daily messages of motivation, persuasion and distraction, as well as jokes, tips and content for digital users.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, said:

“We know the idea of giving up smoking can be daunting, but Stoptober has proved itself to be a fantastic platform for people to quit and offers all the support that smokers may need to take the first step to stopping for good. With support from this year’s line up of comedians we are asking anyone who wants to quit to join the thousands of others and take up the challenge and give Stoptober a go – stop smoking and start smiling.”

Evidence shows that if a smoker can go 28 days without a cigarette, they are five times more likely to stay permanently smoke-free. Quitting smoking can be a difficult process but successfully quitting has significant health, monetary and social benefits.

Stoptober provides smokers with a range of free tools including a new stop smoking pack, a 28-day mobile phone app, text support with daily updates, quitting advice and tips for coping, as well as the encouragement and support from thousands of people quitting together through Stoptober social media channels.

A nation-wide roadshow running from 8th September to 11th October will also see comedic entertainers go into communities across the country to drive more people to get involved in the campaign and share their own humorous experiences of quitting smoking or supporting others.

The 28-day challenge starts on Tuesday 1st October. For more information and to join the biggest stop smoking challenge of its kind, search ‘Stoptober’ online and sign up.

[1] ‘Smoking and Smoking Cessation in England 2011’

[2] 28.07.2014 – monthly tracking of key indicators

3 BMJ 2014; 348 doi:  (Published 13 February 2014)

Background information:

  1. PHE exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through advocacy, partnerships, world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. For more information on PHE visit or follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk
  2. New campaign images and the 3 minute Stoptober advert can be downloaded by media (from 5th September) at:
  3. While smoking rates have declined over past decades, smoking is still the biggest cause of preventable illness and premature deaths in the country – accounting for over 80,000 deaths in England a year. One in every two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking related disease unless they quit.
  4. Andi Osho says: “I don’t smoke anymore, but I know how difficult quitting is, which is why I’m throwing my support behind Stoptober, to let people know that it can be done. You can do it. I think it’s important to use comedy for this campaign, especially if you’ve tried a number of times to give up. We’re bringing some levity and making loads of helpful tips and videos, so you can tune into those and they’ll help you keep going.”
  5. Stoptober roadshow dates:
8 SeptemberManchester24 SeptemberCoventry
9 SeptemberCumbria25 SeptemberStoke
10 SeptemberGreat Yarmouth26 SeptemberBirmingham
12 SeptemberNewcastle27 SeptemberDerby
13 SeptemberSheffield28 SeptemberThurrock
14 SeptemberMiddlesbrough1 OctoberLondon (Lambeth)
17 SeptemberNottingham2 OctoberPortsmouth
18 SeptemberLiverpool3 OctoberBrighton
19 SeptemberBlackpool4 OctoberPeterborough
20 SeptemberSunderland9 OctoberPlymouth
21 SeptemberLeeds10 OctoberExeter
22 SeptemberKing’s Lynn11 OctoberBristol

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