A HARD-hitting campaign to eradicate one of Swindon’s biggest killers – smoking, which claims the lives of 260 people in the town each year – is being launched today.

The Be There Tomorrow initiative, instigated by Smokefree South West, is urgently calling on smokers across Swindon to quit their lethal habit before it is too late.

This year alone, around 260 residents are expected to die as a result of their addiction to tobacco.

A further 1,700 residents will suffer from a smoking-related disease.

In the face of such startling statistics, health chiefs and reformed smokers are encouraging Swindonians to give up their addiction for the sake not merely of their own health, but that of their families as well.

Every year, second-hand smoke exposure is responsible for 500 childhood diseases in Swindon.

Cherry Jones, director of public health for Swindon Council, said: “Here in Swindon, smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable illness, health inequalities and early deaths.

“Smoking is now a minority activity with, on average, only one in five adults still smoking. Yet despite all the excellent work being done to bring down smoking rates, it is still a very sad fact that this year, we would forecast that around 260 people in Swindon will die as a result of smoking.”

Around 700 of our children, aged 11 to 15, will also experiment with cigarettes for the first time in 2014, based on a report by Action on Smoking and Health.

But the impact of smoking does not just stop there – the toll of tobacco goes beyond the lives it takes as early death can devastate the families left behind.

Mark England became acutely aware of the impact his chain smoking had on his 11-year-old daughter Siobhan and their future as a family, when she voiced her fears that he would die.

On October 1, the Eldene administrator stubbed out his last cigarette and joined Stoptober, a 28-day national challenge, designed to help people quit the habit.

Four months on, his determination is still strong.

“I’ve given up for good now,” said the 40-year-old. “The guilt of my daughter being worried got too much. “The things she said really stayed in my head and meant I couldn’t carry on doing it. I feel better for stopping and she is obviously over the moon.”

Like most, he began smoking as a teenager and by the time he left school was ‘totally hooked’.

“Everyone was doing it then,” he said. “I started with roll-ups because no-one else could roll them so they didn’t ask me for one or pinch them. By the time I left school, I was totally hooked and smoking 20 a day, sometimes more in social situations.”

Mark tried giving up three years ago and was successful for nine months before relapsing while on holiday.

A year later, he made sure to surround himself with a network of health professionals before getting to the root of his tobacco addiction.

He contacted the free Swindon’s Stop Smoking Service, run by social enterprise SEQOL on behalf of Swindon Council.

Mark said: “I got to see an advisor straight away, who was brilliant. “We decided to give Champix a try and I was amazed by how well it worked. “You’re supposed to keep smoking whilst you’re taking the tablets but after the first week I just couldn’t. I tried but it was like sitting by a bonfire and trying to breathe. “There were no cravings or side effects; I just didn’t want to do it any more.”

A recent survey in Swindon carried out by Smokefree South West revealed that less than 1 in 10 people (4.6 per cent) of those questioned knew smoking-related diseases kill one in two smokers.

Coun Brian Mattock, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “It’s great to hear stories from people like Mark, who after so many years of smoking have still managed to kick the habit, and his whole family are now feeling the benefits.

“We are committed to assisting people as much as possible to give up. “I hope Mark’s positive experience will help inspire others to call in and try the wide range of support available.”

For more information and advice, contact the SEQOL Swindon Stop Smoking service on 0800 3892229 or 01793 465513. Alternatively text 078812 81797 or email besmokefree@seqol.org