Byline: Dr Tony Jewell
THERE are encouraging signs that attitudes towards smoking in Wales are changing.
Research commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government shows that the smoking ban, which was introduced in April 2007, has had a significant impact on smoking habits. People are reporting that they're smoking less and thinking more about quitting.
This latest research also shows smokers are less likely to have a cigarette when they're out socially, particularly when they go to the pub.
We also know that the number of people contacting the Stop Smoking Wales service has increased since the ban.
Quitting the habit can almost immediately improve your health (see "Feeling better" panel).
Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds - either in the form of gas or as tiny particles.
These include carbon monoxide, arsenic, formaldehyde, cyanide, benzene, toluene and acrolein.
One in four adults in Wales is an ex-smoker- so it can be done. The majority of smokers take up the habit in their teenage years, so across Wales we have schemes in place, such as Smokebugs and ASSIST, which aim to prevent young people trying tobacco.
We're now seeing the benefits of these initiatives. The number of 15 to 16-year-old boys smoking has dropped from 21% in 1998 to 12% in 2006, while smoking among girls in that age group has fallen from 29% in 1998 to 23% in 2006.
The hard fact is that smoking kills.
Every year in Wales around 6,000 people die from smoking-related diseases, yet almost a quarter of adults continue to light up.
Children are especially vulnerable to tobacco smoke. If you need an incentive to quit, then think of their health.
As well as the many health benefits, giving up smoking can also help improve your bank balance.
If you put aside the money you would spend on cigarettes, you will be able to treat yourself at the end of the month and in a year you could save more than pounds 2,000.
If you make your next cigarette your last one, you can not only help to improve your own life but also play a major part in creating a smoke-free Wales.
These are my tips for giving up smoking: Find a friend to quit with you - it is much easier with a friend to support and encourage you; Contact Stop Smoking Wales on 0800 085 2219 or the Smokers Helpline Wales on 0800 169 0169. Evidence suggests that people are four times more likely to successfully quit with help from a support programme; Patches and nicotine gum can help ease the nicotine cravings and are available free on prescription from your doctor; Go for a walk or do something to distract yourself when you feel tempted to smoke.
Feeling better Within 20 minutes of your last cigarette, your blood pressure and pulse return to normal. …