Terminal cancer patient backs Irish anti-smoking TV campaign
Health chiefs have enlisted the help of a terminal lung cancer patient for a campaign urging people to quit smoking.
As a new TV advert featuring Gerry Collins from Greystones, Co Wicklow, was launched today, Health Minister James Reilly praised his courage and branded him an inspiration.
"I am very grateful to Gerry and his family and friends for having the courage to allow us to share his story for the common good," Dr Reilly said.
"It is not an easy thing he has done and I have no doubt that his story will help the many smokers out there to make that quit attempt."
The Health Service Executive (HSE) QUIT campaign was first launched over two years ago but doctors are hoping people will see the New Year as an opportunity to give up smoking.
Mr Collins was one of three people featured in the initial QUIT campaign films and TV adverts in 2011, when he told his story of recovery from tobacco-related throat cancer.
He contacted the HSE in the summer and told officials he had since been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and that he wanted to give more support to the campaign.
"There were three reasons I decided I wanted to do this. Firstly it was for myself - a positive thing for me to invest my energy in while dealing with my cancer," Mr Collins said.
"Secondly, I thought it would be good for my family, creating something powerful and meaningful for my kids to look back on.
"And, finally, if even one person stops smoking because of what we've done, then it will all be worth it for me."
The TV advert featuring Mr Collins will air for the first time on New Year's Day.
In it, Mr Collins speaks of his smoking, his illness, his inevitable death and the impending loss to his family in a bid to encourage smokers to kick the habit.
Dr Reilly declared war on smoking earlier this year when he revealed plans to have a smoke-free Ireland by 2025.
If successful, his mission will ensure that less than 5pc of the population will be smoking in the next 12 years.
Plans are also under way for the introduction of standardised tobacco packaging, which will see large graphic images and health warnings dominate packets of cigarettes.
Ireland's smoking population is currently about 29pc - well above the average among OECD countries at 21pc.
Dr Reilly has been touched personally by the suffering caused by smoking after his brother died of lung cancer and his father went blind following a stroke.
Both were smokers and, like Dr Reilly, both were doctors.
The minister pointed out that one in every two smokers dies from a tobacco-related disease.
"We must encourage and assist the many smokers out there who want to be free from the scourge of tobacco addiction," Dr Reilly added.
"Help is at hand and whilst most smokers try to quit on their own, they are more likely to succeed if they avail of the many supports available to them.
"I would urge smokers to talk to their own GP or pharmacists who can advise them on the various medications that will help them in their QUIT attempt."
Ireland became the first country to stop smoking in bars and restaurants with the workplace smoking ban in 2004.
This was followed by an end to the sale of 10-packs in 2007, a ban on retail displays and adverts in 2009 and picture health warnings on packets this year.
An extension of the smoking ban could go from the workplace to public areas such as parks and beaches.