Torbay’s Public Health Team is supporting a Public Health England powerful campaign which highlights how smoking damages the body and causes a slow and steady decline in a process akin to rotting.

The campaign takes a new expert review commissioned by Public Health England and shows the multiple impacts that toxic ingredients in cigarettes can have on your body.

  • Research reveals that poisons in tobacco smoke break down the body’s key systems, damaging bones, muscles, brain, teeth and eyes
  • Smokers turning to roll-ups, wrongly convinced they are less harmful
  • New anti-smoking campaign shows a roll-up full of rotting tissue to highlight the dangers

While many smokers know that smoking causes cancer and harms the lungs and heart, the new report highlights how it damages:

Bones and muscles

Smoking causes progressive harm to the musculoskeletal system, and has a negative impact on bone mineral density, this includes

  • 25% increased risk of any fracture and a 40% increase in the risk of hip fractures among men
  • Slower healing after injury
  • Increased risk of back and neck pain, leading to a 79% increase in chronic back pain and a 114% increase in disabling lower back pain
  • Significant cause of rheumatoid arthritis and can reduce the impact of treatment


Current smokers are 53% more likely to develop cognitive impairment than non-smokers and 59% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.


Smoking increases the likelihood of tooth loss and decay.


Smoking damages sight by increasing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 78%-358% and increasing the risk of age-related cataracts

With two thirds of smokers saying they want to quit, new adverts are currently being used to graphically illustrate the degeneration that smoking causes.

The campaign also tackles common misconceptions around hand-rolled tobacco, or roll-ups. Use of roll-ups has increased significantly. In 1990, 18% of male smokers and 2% of female smokers said they smoked mainly hand-rolled cigarettes but by 2013 this had risen to 40% for men and 23% for women.

In the South West, 53% of all smokers smoke hand-rolled cigarettes. New figures show that half of smokers (49%) who only smoke roll-ups wrongly believe they are less harmful than manufactured cigarettes. In fact, hand-rolled cigarettes are at least as hazardous as any other type of cigarette.

Smoking rates in the South West have fallen from 19.65% (2010) to 17.3% (2013) in all adults over 18 and Public Health England will be continuing to help any smoker wishing to make a quit attempt in 2015 with a range of free and proven support tools.

Chris Lewis, Executive Lead for Health and Wellbeing, said: “While many smokers know the damage cigarettes do to their hearts and lungs, they are much less likely to be aware of how harmful smoking is to the body - essentially ‘rotting’ it from the inside out, and roll-ups are no exception.

“January is a time when many people make New Year’s resolutions to improve their health and try to stop smoking. Millions of people have used Smokefree support and we are hoping that this year, even more will take advantage of the free expertise and resources on offer.”

Fiona Andrews, Director, Smokefree South West, added: “These figures expose a worrying trend. We believe the switch from cigarettes to hand rolling tobacco is likely to be driven by the economic climate, but with the majority of smokers now smoking some hand rolling tobacco, it is vital to ensure they have the straight facts on the dangers posed.

“Whilst roll-ups can appear cheaper, the cost to health of smoking roll-ups is just as high and they should not be seen as a healthier option to manufactured cigarettes.

“Misunderstanding the risks of hand rolling tobacco is not surprising however, as packaging often portrays the product as a healthier option, featuring green and yellow leaves as well as wording like ‘natural’. In fact hand rolling tobacco contains the same deadly chemicals as manufactured cigarettes and as it can be smoked without a filter, can actually be more dangerous for the smoker.”

Digital and print billboards feature a roll-up cigarette full of decaying tissue, while an online viral shows a father casually rolling up a cigarette formed of rotting human flesh - all bringing to life the fact that: ‘every cigarette rots you from the inside out’. These are joined by the ‘Mutations’ and ‘Toxic Cycle’ adverts used in previous campaigns.

Smokers looking to quit are being encouraged to search ‘Smokefree’ online or visit for the full range of free tools and support. To contact Smokefree South West call 0117 970 7022 or 07920 781 490.

Notes to editors

  1. All campaign imagery and adverts can be downloaded by media from Login: Password: 1smokefree1
  2. PHE exists to protect and improve the nation's health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through advocacy, partnerships, world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. For more information on PHE visit or follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk
  3. While smoking rates have declined over past decades, smoking is still the biggest cause of preventable illness and premature death in the country - accounting for almost 80,000 deaths in England a year. One in every two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking related disease unless they quit.

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