A former smoker who quit to beat early stages lung cancer has shared her experience with Greater Manchester’s top leaders, including Mayor Andy Burnham and Health and Social Care Partnership Chief Officer Jon Rouse.

In a passionate address to our Health and Social Care Board in Rochdale on Friday (September 14) Leigh Webber, 56, of Timperley, urged members to continue to increase the pace and scale of the city-region’s Making Smoking History programme.

With an ambition to cut rates of smoking by a third by 2021 and to make smoking history completely within a generation, Greater Manchester’s Making Smoking History work has already made incredible leaps forward.

The Don’t Be The 1 campaign TV in early 2018, featuring Leigh and other people whose lives have been affected by smoking, helped motivate an estimated 134,000 people to attempt a quit.

The History Makers consultation saw thousands of responses from across Greater Manchester and a huge majority backing initiatives like smokefree outdoor spaces, more licensing for tobacco and more help to be made available for people to give up smoking.

Now teaching assistant Leigh is asking the board to drive the work forward even more, meeting the Greater Manchester’s aim to go further and faster than any region has gone before in making smoking a thing of the past.

Leigh, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, used to smoke up to 20 cigarettes a day, was successfully treated at Wythenshawe hospital. She is currently in remission.

She attributes her successful treatment to the fact that she gave up smoking before the cancer diagnosis and has gone from smoking daily and eating junk food, to running regularly as part of a local running club.

Leigh said: “I’m just a regular person, and obviously it’s completely nerve-wracking to get up in front of a room full of people like that! But I feel so passionately about the drive to end smoking here in Greater Manchester, and I’ll do anything I can to help.

“I have been impressed by how quickly things are happening, and what’s been achieved so far. But to get the job done and make smoking a horrible but distant memory for future generations we can’t take our foot off the pedal.

“When I got involved in the Don’t Be The 1 campaign I hoped that my story would inspire people to quit smoking and grab themselves a new lease of life. I’m absolutely delighted that people did try in their tens of thousands and many of those would have succeeded.

“Now I’m hoping that I can use my story again to inspire the people that make the decisions here in Greater Manchester to keep backing us, and helping us drive forward in helping others to rid themselves of tobacco once and for all.”

Jon Rouse, Chief Officer, said: “It was brilliant to hear from Leigh about how the work we are doing has directly affected her, and so many others like her. It’s a shocking fact that 4,500 people in Greater Manchester die from smoking-related illness every year, and one in two smokers will die from a smoking-related condition.

“We simply can’t let that continue. We have already committed £3million of funding for our Making Smoking History programme – and we expect that for every £1 invested £1 will be returned to our NHS in savings by 2021. We will do everything in our power to make smoking a thing of the past here in Greater Manchester.

“As well as the distressing human cost, smoking costs our health and social care system millions of pounds every year. There are also huge gaps in health inequalities between our communities, and between Greater Manchester and the rest of England.

“Quite simply, tackling smoking is of enormous benefit to everyone. We will do everything we can to make the Making Smoking History in Greater Manchester ambition a reality.”

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