HEALTH chiefs and campaigners have reacted angrily after a known smoker was used as the face of an anti-smoking campaign in Wigan.
Coun Keith Cunliffe, the portfolio holder for Adult and Social Care at Wigan Council, stood alongside Wigan’s Director of Health at the launch of this year’s Stoptober campaign, which aims to get smokers to quit during October.
However, both the chair of Wigan’s Healthwatch group and a national campaign group have hit out at the move, after learning that Coun Cunliffe is a known smoker who has no plans to give up himself.
Coun Cunliffe, said: “I have smoked all my adult life and have tried on a number of occasions to stop, but have not been able to. It is because I am a long-term smoker who hasn’t been able to kick the habit that I am keen to support any intervention that could help people fight tobacco addiction.
“As a grandparent I would be upset if my grandchildren started to smoke which is why I am particularly passionate about the current local work on stopping young people from starting to smoke. It is much easier to not start smoking than it is to try and stop.”
The decision to put Coun Cunliffe up as the face of Stoptober has been questioned by Sir Ian McCartney, the chair of Wigan Healthwatch.
Sir Ian said: “Every smoker, council elected or otherwise should take this message seriously, especially Coun Cunliffe.
“At Wigan Healthwatch we see the consequences of smoking every day and it is the biggest killer in Wigan as well as being the reason the borough has such a poor health record.
“Addictions aren’t easy to deal with, but he should at least try to quit smoking given the campaign he is championing.”
Last year, hundreds of Wiganers quit their habit during Stoptober and health chiefs now hope even more people in Wigan will attempt to give up during the coming weeks.
Latest figures found that one in five people in the borough currently smoke - one of the highest rates in the country.
Coun Cunliffe’s inclusion in the campaign has also been questioned by the public health smoking campaign group, ASH (Action on Smoking and Health)
Martin Dockrell, Director of Policy & Research at Action on Smoking and Health said: “Most smokers say they want to quit and the best thing is to quit now, completely and for ever, but that’s not always possible. For many, quitting isn’t an event, it’s a journey so it is important never to give up on giving up. If you are not ready to quit just yet you can still join in Stoptober by following Coun Cunliffe’s example and supporting your mates today in the knowledge that your mates will be there for you when it is your turn.”
Stoptober was launched this week in the Grand Arcade.
At the launch Coun Cunliffe said: ““If you’ve been thinking about quitting, now is the time to do it.
“It isn’t always an easy journey but with the support of friends, family and your local stop smoking service, everyone can help each other to reduce the number of smokers in Wigan borough.
“During Stoptober last year, 160,000 people quit smoking.”
For more information or to sign up visit www.smokefree.nhs.uk/Stoptober or call 01942 481712 to speak to the stop smoking service .