If you’re gasping for a fag, a little giggle might help...

Paul B Edwards

Paul B Edwards - Credit: Archant

Swap a fag for a gag this month – even if kicking the habit is no laughing matter.

Doggett and Ephgrave

Doggett and Ephgrave - Credit: Archant

The Stoptober drive is a national campaign to convince smokers to stub it out, and this year it is aiming to use laughter as a potential lifesaver.

Spreading the word: Stoptober is a national drive against smoking

Spreading the word: Stoptober is a national drive against smoking - Credit: Archant

Top name comedians like Al Murray and Paddy McGuiness are backing the idea which helps smokers quit with a 28 day app, daily text messages including jokes to take their minds off their longing for a cigarette, and other expert support.

Cult comic figure Lee Nelson and Live At The Apollo star Andi Osho have also been enlisted to help people start smiling and stop smoking.

But the funny men who are the driving force behind the North Herts comedy scene are divided about whether laughter is the best preventative medicine.

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Glynn Doggett and David Ephgrave, who organise monthly shows at Hitchin’s Market Theatre, think it’s a great idea.

David said: “Young people have been drawn to comedy over recent years, and if it helps them to stop smoking it can only be a good thing.”

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But Paul B. Edwards, the man behind the long-running Lastminutecomedy sessions in Hitchin, Letchworth and Baldock, isn’t a fan of the stunt.

Paul, a smoker himself, says the anti-smoking message should be pushed throughout the year, and not just for a month.

He said: “Why not just encourage people all year round to quit smoking?

“I’m considering a light up for Christmas campaign to get us through December.”

Dr Jenifer Smith of Public Health England, which is running the campaign, said “Evidence shows that if a smoker can go 28 days without a cigarette they are five times more likely to stay permanently smoke-free.”

And Councillor Teresa Heritage, Herts County Council’s cabinet member for public health, said: “Quitting smoking can be tough, but Stoptober has proved to be a great way for smokers to take their first steps towards a healthier, smoke-free life.

The Stoptober challenged kicked off yesterday, Wednesday, and a nationwide roadshow running until next Saturday, October 11, will see comics encouraging quitters and sharing their own humorous experiences of giving up.

Smoking is still the biggest cause of preventable illness and premature deaths in the country.

Two thirds of smokers say they want to quit but only four in 10 told a recent survey that they have tried in the last year.

Find out more at www.stoptober.smokefree.nhs.uk or contact the Hertfordshire Stop Smoking Service on 0800 389 3 998.

Additional reporting by Charlotte Nash

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