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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sports stars tackle smoking

Basketball champions Leicester Riders are among a team of celebrities who have joined forces to persuade people to quit smoking. Some of the biggest names in Leicestershire sports are backing the new campaign – Balls to Stop Smoking – which will be officially launched at the end of the month .

It is being run by the Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, which runs the stop-smoking service across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Former Leicestershire and England fast bowler Jonathan Agnew, City's Andy King, Leicester Tigers legend Neil Back, Leicester and GB hockey star Nicola White, Leicester Riders' forward Jamell Anderson and boxer Rendall Munroe have all agreed to be campaign ambassadors.

Qasim Chowdray, the service's tobacco control lead, said: "We know the names and faces are recognisable and that the individuals are influential locally. They are really enthusiastic about getting people to quit smoking."They all have thousands of Twitter followers and this campaign is a new way of getting our message out there to encourage people to give up smoking as well as persuading people not to start."

Leicester Riders had a training session with a difference yesterday, when they attended a special smoking awareness workshop at Loughborough University. Its aim was to tell them more about tobacco consumption, the tobacco industry and the most successful ways to quit.

Russell Leveston, managing director of Leicester Riders, said: "We do a lot of community work in schools and youth clubs and this will add to that work. The training session is all about giving players all the relevant information about smoking so they can take the message to young people.

"None of our players smoke and this is about telling people, not just about giving up, but also about what is in a cigarette. I think Balls to Stop is a great campaign idea." Rob Paternostro, the Rider' head coach, said: "We are committed to our work in the community. This will strengthen our knowledge and assist us further in the projects we deliver."

Work on the campaign, which it is hoped will lead to 10,000 fewer smokers by the end of March, has already begun. Jonathan Agnew was at Saturday's match between Leicester City and Huddersfield at the King Power Stadium, giving out advice to would-be quitters.

At half-time he joined club ambassador Alan Birchenall on the pitch to talk more about his work with the campaign, his experiences of quitting smoking and gave out information on the support on offer to people who want to give up smoking, but do not know where to start.

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