A study by the Health Research Board (HRB) found post-stroke smoking rates are double those in Europe, despite the fact that a quarter of strokes are caused by smoking.
The study found that an alarming 58% of smokers continued to smoke six months after stroke compared to a European rate of 29%.
The findings, released on the eve of World No Tobacco Day, have prompted the Irish Health Foundation (IHF) to call on the health service to do everything in its power to get smokers to quit.
IHF medical director Dr Angie Browne said while smoking rates in Ireland had fallen to an all-time low of 22%, more needed to be done to help those who had suffered serious cardiovascular events, such as stroke, to quit.
“Continuing to smoke after stroke is extremely dangerous and patients not only risk undoing the hard work of their recovery — which often involves lengthy rehabilitation — but they are risking their lives and may not see their next birthday a year later because of their addiction,” Dr Browne warned.
Just what lengths smokers will go to to feed their habit is borne out in a separate study by Pfizer Ireland which found:
- 10% cut back on buying food
- 35% said they cut down on eating out
- 24% pulled out of social engagements
- 22% also said that they cut back on holidays to avoid cutting their smoking budget.
More than half of the smokers interviewed admitted to spending between €50 and €100 per week on cigarettes.
Former Cork senior footballer Dan Dineen, a 47-year-old plumber, is a prime example of the lengths smokers will go to.
At the height of his habit he sold his beloved Harley Davidson to fund an addiction that was costing €800 a month.
That was in 2011. He’d been smoking since the age of 13 or 14. He bought a Quit Smoking hypnosis voucher last year and eventually took the plunge on January 11.
“At 1.45pm that day, I flicked my last butt as I was knocking on the door of the hypnosis clinic,” he said.
He was spurred on when he saw former Dublin footballer Gerry Collins talking about his terminal lung cancer in a TV interview. Mr Collins, who passed away recently, features in a HSE anti-smoking campaign.
“He was fit, he trained, I identified a lot with him. One of the great conundrums in my case was that despite my lifelong smoking, I was able, even in my 30s, to run with 18 and 19-year-olds and play county football. But it really hit home when I saw him being interviewed,” Dan said.
Dan has stayed off cigarettes but admits it’s a daily struggle. He urges smokers anxious to quit to avail of any help they can get.
For help quitting, log onto www.quitwithhelp.ie
Anyone worried about stroke, heart or other related health issues can talk to an IHF nurse in confidence on the National Heart & Stroke Helpline Locall 1890 432 787, Mon to Fri, 10am to 5pm.