Smokers are being encouraged to quit the habit for 28 days, as this will greatly increase their chances of quitting for good.
The HSE has launched its latest QUIT Smoking campaign, which looks at the many excuses people use to continue smoking, but also highlights the harm caused by the habit.
According to Martina Blake, the national lead of the HSE Tobacco Free Ireland Programme, quitting smoking is extremely difficult and while many people want to quit, the idea can seem overwhelming.
"A key development in this campaign is that we break down quitting and present an achievable and powerful first step. If you can quit for 28 days, you are five times more likely to quit for good.
"Practical support and resources give the best chance of making it to day 28 and once you reach that, you are well on the way to long-term success and the benefits of a smoke-free life," she explained.
The HSE's QUIT team provides free, non-judgmental practical help, which is designed to fit each smoker's lifestyle. Stop smoking advisors are also available to coach anyone who wants to quit.
The prevalence of daily smoking in Ireland has fallen from 19% in 2015 to 14% in 2019. This equates to 165,000 fewer smokers now compared to five years ago.
Smoking rates are highest among young adults aged between 25 and 34, as well as people from lower socioeconomic classes.
Public health medicine specialist with the HSE, Dr Paul Kavanagh, emphasised that smoking is "incredibly harmful", with half of all smokers dying from a tobacco-related disease.
Furthermore, smokers can expect to lose an average of around 10 years of life due to the habit.
"Stopping smoking is the single most important thing you can do for your health, for your future and for your loved ones. We consulted people who smoke, and they told us that behind the excuses they use to protect themselves from the damage their smoking is causing, they want to quit and are looking for hope.
"HSE QUIT can offer hope as we work individually with people to offer the best chances of living a smoke-free life," Dr Kavanagh said.
He explained that the campaign also wants to start a conversation about the dangers of social smoking because people who consider themselves social smokers may not be aware that their health is still at risk.
"Even occasional smokers can carry nearly the same risk for cardiovascular disease as daily smokers," he pointed out.
According to quitter, Alan Lowney from Clonakilty, making a plan gives you the best chance of success and getting practical help, for example from the QUIT team, "makes all the difference".
"Having calls from the QUIT team during my first few weeks of quitting encouraged me to keep going. I also signed up for an online QUIT plan where I tracked my progress. I still log on to my QUIT plan every now again to see how long I have been off cigarettes and how much money I have saved by not smoking.
"When I checked recently, I realised that I would be running my first half-marathon in Amsterdam on my 1,000th day as a non-smoker. I had always had a goal of doing something like a half-marathon and not smoking anymore has helped me reach my goal," he said.
The HSE QUIT service provides free, personalised support by phone, email, text and live chat. Smokers can free call 1800 201 203 or visit www.QUIT.ie for stop smoking tips and resources, a free QUIT kit, to create a QUIT plan, or to read other people's stories.
Peer-to-peer support is available on the QUIT Facebook page www.facebook.com/HSEQUIT or on Twitter at @HSEQuitTeam #QuitandWin #TheLastStop. The latest QUIT ad can be viewed here.
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