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11 August 2010, 06:00
Muslims across Buckinghamshire are being encouraged to quit smoking during Ramadan.
The holy month starts today, and will see many Muslims fast between dawn and sunset. NHS Buckinghamshire is therefore targeting the Muslim population during the month, to try and get them to abstain from smoking at the same time.
The Asian community has a higher number of smokers than the national average. According to Solutions 4 Health - which is working with the local NHS on the campaign - around 40% of Bangladeshi men smoke and 29% of Pakistani men smoke, compared to the national average of 24%
In Buckinghamshire the number of people who smoke is lower than the England average, but around 535 people in the county still die from smoking related illnesses every year.
Sukh Ryatt, from Solutions 4 Health, told Heart:
"Ramadan is an opportunity for them [Muslim people] to abstain from things that would cause them damage and harm, and one of those things, which is very important, is smoking - which is important for everybody."
"It's a great time for people to take up a service like this, particularly because they're already abstaining, it is a very good incentive for them now to extend what they're doing and apply that to themselves to be able to stop smoking - and that's where we can help them."
Jo Wilson, a Public Health Practitioner at NHS Buckinghamshire, said:
"Smoking is a serious health issue for Asian communities who are at risk from heart disease and stroke as well as respiratory diseases associated with smoking. We are targeting the Asian community with a campaign that recognises the cultural and language difficulties which exist. NHS Buckinghamshire smoking cessation services have helped over 12,000 people in the county quit over the past 10 years. We are already making real progress in encouraging local people across the county to quit smoking, and our latest campaign running throughout Ramadan should help even more smokers quit for good."
Support is being offered in different languages including Urdu and Punjabi and areas with a high Muslim footfall are being targeted, including Mosques, businesses, shopping centres and taxi ranks.
For free support to stop smoking call Solutions 4 Health on 0800 634 9139 or call the NHS Stop Smoking Service on 084527 07222.