Department of Health and Social Care
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Man U beats Chelsea in the League that really matters

Man U beats Chelsea in the League that really matters

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 19 November 2009

· Man U fans top the Smokefree United League while Chelsea lags behind
· Andy Townsend calls for football fans to kick it together by signing for Smokefree United

Chelsea fans may be currently celebrating being top of the Premier League, but there is room for improvement off the pitch as they struggle to kick the habit and give smoking the red card. Today, as the latest standings in the Smokefree United League are announced, it's revealed that only 77 Blues fans have signed for Smokefree United to quit smoking - leaving them trailing behind their Man U rivals who top the table with 274, more than treble the number of Chelsea fans pledging to quit.

Smokefree United is a virtual club of quitters that provides coaching and support to help football fans and players to stop smoking, Launched in October by the NHS and supported by the Premier League and football legends Ian Wright, Gianfranco Zola, John Barnes and Andy Townsend, more than 1,500 fans have already signed up. In addition to quitting advice and entry into competitions to win money can't buy prizes, footballers and fans that sign up boost their team's position in the Smokefree United League.

Other winners in the Smokefree United League are Liverpool, who despite lagging six places behind Chelsea in the Premier League, have raced ahead in the quitting stakes and come in second with 182 quitters. Arsenal are in third with 138 fans followed by Tottenham and Chelsea who with 84 and 77 fans respectively are battling it out for the fourth spot.

talkSPORT host and former professional footballer Andy Townsend said:

"I'd encourage all football fans and players who have thought about quitting to sign for Smokefree United. Quitting Smoking will have a huge impact on your game and you'll immediately become more competitive on the pitch because your cardiovascular fitness will improve.

"Those who've signed for Smokefree United are there to motivate each other when the going gets tough, to celebrate the success of staying off the fags, and they can also count on supportive messages from Ian Wright!"

JAYGFC, a Smokefree United quitter from Gillingham said:

"I signed up to Smokefree United and am now in my 7th week of not smoking - I have started jogging and I feel great! I did one week with the patches and that was it. I am loving life again and didn't realise just how unfit I was!"

According to new research conducted on behalf of the NHS, some football fans who smoke take the beautiful game more seriously than others with a huge 53 per cent of Liverpool fans saying they would give up smoking if their team was to win the double - more than for any other team.

You're up to four times more likely to stop smoking successfully with NHS Support. For help quitting, visit the Smokefree United website at or call the NHS Stop Smoking Helpline on 0800 917 0492

Notes to Editors

Smokefree United is open until 20 December 2009

To view the attached Smoke Free United table please visit the following link:

Smokefree United Research

Smokefree United commissioned research into the attitudes of football fans who smoke. Analysis of the top five clubs has led to each club's fans receiving their own unique title:

Arsenal, the kick about champions

* As the kick about champions, Gunners are the most likely to get off the couch and join the game. Almost half play football in their spare time, 22% playing 11 a side and 24% playing five a side, twice the average of other top five teams.

* And to show how committed they are to the game, Gunners are the least likely to think it is acceptable for their team makes to smoke, one third (32%) are against their team mates smoking.

Liverpool, the committed fans

* The reds are some of the most committed fans in the Premier League, as over half (53%) would stop smoking if it meant Liverpool won the double

* And they expect the same devotion from their team. Over half the fans will not tolerate professional footballers smoking, with 63% viewing it as unacceptable

Manchester United, the true friend

* The reds are true friends and have the strongest sense of camaraderie when it comes to smoking, almost half (48%) would stop smoking if their mates did.

* To support their mates on the pitch, Manchester United fans are the least likely to smoke on the sideline when having a kick about, as 35% keep their cigarettes away from the match.

Tottenham Hotspur, the family man

* Spurs are keen to pass their love of the game to the next generation, with one in four making sure they have regular kick abouts with the kids, over twice that of the rival Gunners.

* As a result 27% want to quit the habit to keep up with their kids.

Chelsea, the laid back fan

* With success on the pitch possibly going to their heads, the blues complacency shows as less than one third (32%) would give up smoking if it meant Chelsea won the double

* And this relaxed attitude extends to getting off the couch as Chelsea supporters are the least likely to play football themselves, with over half (57%) playing no football at all!

Fans of Smokefree United

Gianfranco Zola and the West Ham United Squad: "We're pleased to be supporting Smokefree United and call on smokers to sign up and get help to quit. There's plenty of online support to help you kick smoking and you'll see an improvement in your game within a week."

Premier League Head of Community Development Simon Morgan:

"The Premier League is right behind Smokefree United. We are fully committed to improving the quality of thousands of people's lives through the many health initiatives that our clubs run. For example, our Premier League Health project sees clubs all over the country tackle specific health issues that their male fans face.

"Smokefree United provides a new and exciting way of highlighting the benefits of going smokefree to football fans, while giving them the ongoing support needed to successfully quit smoking."

Premier League Clubs

The following Premier League clubs are supporting Smokefree United, which complements much of the work they are already doing to improve the health of their fans.


Tottenham Hotspur Foundation (THF) is currently delivering a number of health related programmes. One of these programmes, 'Healthy Family', is an outreach education intervention which focuses on obesity, oral health and physical activity. As part of their overall health offer THF have also sent a number of their coaches on smoking cessation training courses, allowing them to help individuals from both the 'Healthy Family' and other health related programmes stop smoking. Under the umbrella of 'Healthy Family' an additional programme, 'Premier Health' focuses on men's health and is aimed at helping to tackle a number of key areas within men's health such as smoking and obesity.


Everton's Premier Health scheme aims to motivate and inspire hard to reach males, in Liverpool, to make positive, healthy lifestyle choices. Premier Health has six key health themes: smoking cessation, cancer, substance and alcohol misuse, sexual health, obesity and CVD and mental health. They provide one-to-one mentoring support and take advantage of match day environments at Goodison Park to publicise pertinent men's health issues.


Sunderland AFC Foundation's 'Fit for Football' scheme uses football coaching to deliver active sessions aimed at helping people give up smoking, deal with health inequalities and providing positive messages about healthy eating and general well-being. They also help educate families about the dangers of smoking, having a healthy diet, importance of exercise and how to improve self esteem and confidence through their 'Family Learning through Football Fitness' programme.

Hull City

Hull City are launching a men's health programme in October aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of men aged 18-39. They aim to reduce the number of men smoking through smoking cessation seminars, and guidance will be given to those determined to stop, with tailored services for more difficult cases.


Portsmouth recently launched a campaign to educate men about cancer, as part of a new initiative run by the Football Foundation. The campaign will focus on the three main types of cancer - lung, bowel and prostate - the first two of which are most commonly associated with smoking. Portsmouth will have nurses offering health checks and advice at its matches, and are also starting up their own 'Premier Health' scheme to help raise awareness of men's health issues through its various community partnerships.

Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn Rovers are involved in two men's health initiatives that incorporate help and advice to stop smoking. The first is the new 'Ahead of the game' campaign which aims to raise the awareness of, amongst others, lung cancer, through the power of football. They also take part in the 'Premier Health' initiative which aims to help improve the state of men's health by encouraging healthy lifestyles and offering advice on quitting smoking.

Bolton Wanderers

Bolton Wanderers' Football in the Community is launching a new Premier League Health project, which will run for three years and specifically aims to help local men lead more fit and healthy lifestyles. Men will be given advice on the dangers of smoking and a poor diet and on what help is available to kick the habit and improve their diet.


Fulham Football Club Foundation will be targeting men in the Lambeth area as part of their Premier Health project. They hope to use football as a mental well-being enhancement tool and increase access to statutory health care. They will address three main areas of concern through issue based workshops: substance misuse, including smoking; nutrition and sexual health.


Liverpool Football Club manages extensive healthy living programmes: Healthy Stadia (focussing on fans, visitors and employees), European Healthy Stadia (a network of 150 venues sharing good practice), Truth 4 Youth assemblies, which include health messages, and the Action 4 Health programme which includes the Premier League Men's Health and Extra Time programmes. As well as health promotion, the latter three programmes include one-to-one health checks which are directly linked to pathways to assist people to make lifestyle changes, including smoking cessation. There are also four health information kiosks in community centres. LFC works closely with partners in the Liverpool Primary Care Trust, Liverpool City Council, Premier League, Heart of Mersey and local community groups to ensure that the most appropriate help is on offer.

What is Smokefree United?

Smokefree United is a virtual club of quitters - supported by John Barnes, Ian Wright and the Premier League - that provides coaching and support to help football fans and players to stop smoking.

Quitters signing up will receive regular weekly contact over a four week period via supportive emails from Ian Wright, entry into competitions to win money-can't-buy prizes, and the chance to send the club you support to the top of the Smokefree League.

Why is the Department of Health running Smokefree United?

The NHS Smokefree team understands that different messages and triggers will motivate different people to make a quit attempt. By discussing the many benefits of quitting within a football context we want to let football fans and players know that if they stop smoking they'll get more out of their game - both on the pitch and by being able to spend more time with their family.

* The majority of male smokers (70%) would like to quit smoking

* Over 80 per cent of male smokers are football fans

What happens when you go Smokefree - benefits timeline

20 minutes Blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal

8 hours Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in blood reduce by half, oxygen levels return to normal

24 hours Carbon monoxide will be eliminated from the body. Lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris

48 hours There is no nicotine in the body. Ability to taste and smell is greatly improved

72 hours Breathing becomes easier. Bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy levels increase

2-12 weeks Your circulation improves

3-9 months Coughs, wheezing and breathing problems improve as lung function increases by up to 10%

5 years Risk of heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker

10 years Risk of lung cancer falls to half that of a smoker. Risk of heart attack falls to the same as someone who has never smoked

1. NHS Smokefree factsheet: Quitting

* Three-quarters of smokers (74%) say they would like to quit if they could. Key statistics include:

* 58% of smokers say that they intend to quit in the next 12 months

* 86% of smokers cite at least one health reason for why they want to quit

* 60% of current smokers have made a series attempt to quit in the past five years

* 53% of smokers have sought some kind of help or advice for quitting smoking

* 87% of people who have attempted to stop smoking in the last year would like to stop smoking

* Heavy smokers are more likely to have tried to stop smoking (87%)

* 55 %of smokers said that someone had asked them to stop smoking - this tended to be a partner (22%), son or daughter

(17%) or a parent (16%)

* Women were more likely than men to say that their children were asking them to quit (22% and 13% respectively)

* Only 7% of smokers who had previously managed to stop smoking, had quit for two years or more, while 72% had only managed to quit for six months or less

2. Telephone numbers for NHS Stop Smoking Support:

* NHS Smoking Helpline (0800 169 0 169)

* NHS Pregnancy Smoking Helpline (0800 169 9 169)

* NHS Asian Tobacco Helpline

* Urdu - 0800 169 0 881

* Punjabi - 0800 169 0 882

* Hindi - 0800 169 0 883

* Gujarati - 0800 169 0 884

* Bengali - 0800 169 0 885

3. NHS Smokefree factsheet: Top 10 tips for a successful quit attempt

Research shows smokers are up to four times more likely to stop smoking successfully if they get support from their local NHS Stop Smoking Service and Nicotine Replacement Therapy, compared with relying on willpower alone.

The NHS Smokefree campaign suggests the following top ten tips to help smokers on their path to become smokefree:

1. Order a free DVD from 0800 169 0 169 to find out about the full range of NHS support available to help you quit.

2. Get support from trained NHS advisers who can help you to understand your addiction and how to beat it.

3. Identify your smoking triggers and plan ahead. Try the Addiction Test at

4. Use nicotine replacement products or other stop smoking medicines to cope with the withdrawal symptoms. These are available on prescription from the NHS.

5. Sign up for free text and email alerts from the Together Programme with motivational tips and advice to keep you on track.

6. Avoid situations where you might be tempted to smoke again. Plan ahead to cope with the hard times.

7. Note how much cash you're saving. Work out how long it will take you to save for your dream purchase by using the calculator on

8. Use a carbon monoxide monitor to see for yourself how quickly your body recovers once you stop smoking. Local NHS Stop Smoking Services offer carbon monoxide monitoring as part of their stop smoking programmes.

9. Chuck out your ashtrays, matches and lighters and anything else you needed to smoke. Put potpourri where your ashtrays used to be - your home will smell fresher in no time at all.

10. But most importantly, take it one day at a time and reward yourself every day


Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221

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