Football stars urge smokers to quit

The Press Association
8 October 2009

Former top footballers John Barnes, Ian Wright and Gianfranco Zola are joining forces to help people quit smoking.

The stars, together with Premier League football clubs including Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Liverpool and Fulham, are helping the NHS launch a virtual club for quitters. The club will provide coaching and support to help football fans and players stop smoking.

People will receive motivational emails from Wright as well as prizes like the chance to play a game on their team's pitch.

A new survey to help promote the club found that 41% of male smokers play football and 82% of those are worried about the effects smoking has on their performance and want to stop.

More than half (56%) said their smoking affects the team's overall performance, 73% cannot keep going for the full 90 minutes and 75% say non-smokers have better endurance on the pitch than they do.

Almost half (46%) notice they feel more unfit or wheeze within the first 10 minutes of the game, the survey of players in England found. Just one week after quitting, smokers are able to extend the amount of time they can exercise for, other research has shown.

Barnes said: "...Quitting smoking will have a huge impact on your game and you'll immediately become more competitive because your cardiovascular fitness will improve, increasing the amount of time you'll be able to spend on the pitch."

Public health minister Gillian Merron said: "Stopping smoking is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your game, your fitness and overall health..."

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