Smokers are being reminded of the cost of smoking, to both their health and wallets.
According to anti-smoking group, ASH Ireland, a 20-a-day habit costs almost €3,500 a year, or €200,000 over the course of a lifetime.
"Much of this cost is on taxes and the remainder enhances the profits of the tobacco industry. I encourage smokers, the vast majority who want to quit, to consider quitting - and this is a good time to make that key decision," said ASH chairman, Dr Ross Moragn.
He made his comments to coincide with National No Smoking Day (March 5), which always falls on Ash Wednesday. He noted that many people choose to quit smoking on this particular day, but warned that for most, ‘success will not be achieved at the first attempt'.
However, quitting is possible and there are a range of health benefits for those who succeed.
"If the smoker can make that key decision to quit and break the link with the addiction to nicotine, both health and financial benefits will quickly follow," Dr Morgan said.
Meanwhile, the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) is appealing to so-called ‘social smokers' to quit the habit, as this can triple a person's risk of developing heart disease.
The IHF issued the warning after new research from the UK found that ‘part-time' smokers are in denial about the damage they are doing to themselves, and just one in four worry that their habit could be harming their health.
The foundation believes that the same is true of social smokers in Ireland, who wrongly believe that they will not suffer a heart attack or stroke as a result of their habit.
"One million people are smokers in Ireland and a quarter of these are regarded as occasional or social smokers consuming one to five cigarettes per day. There is a common misperception that smoking occasionally or smoking a lesser amount than regular or heavy smokers, carries little or no risk.
"This is not true and today is about dispelling those myths to say that if you smoke one to five cigarettes a day, you are putting yourself at high risk of heart attack and stroke," said Dr Angie Brown, medical director of the IHF.
She warned that smoking is even more dangerous for women because they metabolise nicotine faster than men.
"In fact, women who smoke are nearly twice as likely to have a heart attack as women who don't smoke. Women's arteries are also smaller than in men and when combined with nicotine consumption, which causes blood vessels to narrow, women are at greater risk of blockages or vascular complications," she noted.
The IHF pointed out that after just 20 minutes of quitting smoking, a person's blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal. After two days, their sense of taste and smell improves and after just three days of quitting, breathing is easier and energy levels increase.
Twelve months after quitting, the risk of suffering a heart attack is reduced to half that of a smoker.
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