A FORMER smoker from Ashington is backing a campaign to raise awareness of a deadly lung disease which most smokers do not realise they have.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the fifth biggest killer in the UK, and worryingly, around 37,000 people in the region may be unaware they are suffering.
COPD, an umbrella term for chronic bronchitis and emphysema, literally leaves people gasping for breath.
Commonly caused by smoking or exposure to dust and fumes, it kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer every year.
Mother of seven Janet Stoddart, of Woodhorn Villas, is supporting Every Breath, a new campaign by Fresh and the British Lung Foundation, which highlights the long term effects of COPD and challenges the assumption among most smokers that being short of breath is normal.
The 55-year-old stopped smoking after she was diagnosed with COPD in 2005.
“Before I quit smoking I had noticed feeling out of breath, but I just thought this was normal for someone who had smoked up to 60 cigarettes a day for more than 40 years,” she said.
“I had never heard of COPD but as my breathing got worse I became really ill and felt like I was suffocating.
“At this point I was really scared of what might happen to me and was in and out of hospital, which was frightening because I just didn’t know what was wrong with me.
“I was diagnosed with COPD in 2005 and was told by my doctor if I didn’t quit smoking I would die.”
The campaign also has the backing of Wallsend-born rock star Sting, who gave permission for his lyrics from Every Breath You Take to be used as its name.
Alisa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “The north east is the first region to use COPD in a stop smoking campaign and the fact that we are leading the way on this is certainly something to be proud of.
“We want people in the north east to be the best informed in the country about the health harms of smoking.
“We hope that with Every Breath we are able to provide the hard facts about the terrible effects of COPD and further encourage more people to quit smoking as early as possible to prevent it.”
Janet added: “Living with COPD is very limiting as I can’t do anything without feeling out of breath.
“I totally regret starting smoking and wish I had never smoked in the first place.
“I’m pleased that Fresh is helping others to find out more about the disease because it is a devastating condition and I hope it encourages more people to quit smoking.”
For information about the campaign, visit www.everybreath.tv