No Smoking Day fixes on notorious heavy puffers

This year's No Smoking Day will specifically target gay men, bingo players and the armed forces.

The charity of the same name that runs the day has entered partnerships with the army and navy, the Terrence Higgins Trust and Gala Casinos after identifying these groups as containing a high proportion of smokers. They will join forces to spread the quitting message today.

"We have proactively identified the groups most in need of help to stop smoking, rather than continuing to use No Smoking Day solely to create a broad awareness of the issue," said Ben Youden, the charity's chief executive.

The Government's Office of National Statistics puts UK smoking levels at 26 per cent of over-16s. But that figure is dwarfed by the percentages of bingo players, army servicemen and gay men who smoke.

The army said 40 per cent of its staff smoke, Gala claims that 60 per cent of its bingo customers are smokers, and figures from health group Gay Men Fighting Aids put the figure at 45 per cent for gay men, and up to 80 per cent for HIV-positive men.

No Smoking Day has already begun referring smokers who attend the Terrence Higgins Trust's drop-in centres to trained smoking-cessation advisers in the NHS.

The charity is also well into its contract with the armed forces. Since last year's No Smoking Day, it has trained around 100 services personnel as smoking-cessation advisers aboard naval ships and in army barracks, and now plans to extend this to the RAF.

Thousands of bingo players at 166 Gala Bingo clubs will be confronted with campaign posters and leaflets when they turn up to play today.

The charity has sent out 30,000 posters to appear in cafes, pubs and GPs' surgeries. It will provide media contacts with a news hook by emailing them the results of an NOP poll, which shows that last year's day caused 85,000 people to give up smoking in the UK.

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