In East Salford, almost half of all adults are smokers, making it the highest area of a city which, as a whole, is way above the national average in the nicotine league with almost a third of residents confirmed smokers, compared to one in five nationally.
It's a huge problem, and on World No Tobacco Day, 31st May, a My Last Pack campaign was launched urging people to stop smoking and donate their last empty packet of cigs to a collection point at Salford Royal Hospital, which would then be included in an artwork by local artist David Boultbee `to convey the significance of quitting smoking'.
For every pack that is donated, pharmaceutical company Pfizer stated it would donate £1 to smoking cessation charity QUIT, up to a limit of £2,000. The idea behind the campaign - `initiated and funded by Pfizer and supported by NHS Salford and QUIT' - is to get people who want to quit smoking to seek help from a healthcare professional, rather than trying to go it alone.
"More than one in four adults smoke in Salford, many of whom will have tried several times to quit" says June Roberts, Assistant Director of Nursing at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust "Too often, smokers are unaware of the help available and continue to try to break free from their nicotine addiction on their own. We hope that the people of Salford will get behind this campaign and realise that they can get the stop smoking support they deserve."
While the campaign aims are good, there could be slight unease at the involvement of Pfizer, which manufactures controversial anti-smoking drugs, marketed in the States as Chantix and in Europe as Champix.
The prescription only drug works by reducing the level of dopamine, a hormone responsible for creating feelings of pleasure, but, following doses of Chantix, people have complained of side effects including aggression, psychosis, hallucinations, paranoia and suicidal depression.
France has stopped covering the drug, there's a class action lawsuit against Pfizer in Canada and, in March, the US Food and Drug Administration announced that it was upholding its most serious `black box' warning on Pfizer's Chantix packaging which states `You are encouraged to inform friends and family of your quit (smoking) attempt, which includes treatment with Champix, and ask for their support and help in monitoring for potential psychiatric symptoms...'
Obviously, Pfizer denies that there is any link between its drugs and such side effects – but Salford Royal Hospital getting into bed with the controversial drug company for this campaign might be perceived as unwise, particularly if its health professionals are prescribing Champix as part of any anti-smoking therapy.
On Pfizer's www.quitwithhelp.co.uk website would-be quitters are directed to a chart of stop smoking methods, one of which is `non-nicotine prescription-only tablets'.