A WOMAN who smoked from the age of 13 is supporting a campaign to raise awareness among smokers of the relative safety of e-cigarettes as it was revealed that in Bolton almost one in five adults smoke.

Gill Holden, from Sharples, is backing the Cancer Research UK campaign which is underway now and is being being promoted on billboards, bus-stops, phone kiosks, in washrooms and on social media. The message of the campaign is based on research so far showing that vaping is far less harmful than smoking.

Ms Holden started smoking with a group of friends when she was aged 13. Neither of her parents were smokers.

The 48-year-old, who works as a support worker with homeless people, was smoking up to 20 cigarettes a day at her heaviest.

But over a number of years she reduced her smoking to between 10 and 20 cigarettes a week.

She said: “When I was having a drink with friends who were smoking, if I went outside I knew I would end up having a cigarette.”

Ms Holden is asthmatic and when she suffered a cold, it always went to her chest. She suffered tightness in her chest and a persistent bad cough. Gill was concerned that her smoking made these problems worse, so she tried a friend’s e-cigarette on one occasion when her chest was particularly bad.

When, in November 2016, she was due to go away for a weekend break with friends who smoked she decided to buy her own e-cigarette.

She said: "I knew my friends would be smoking and I wanted to avoid having a cigarette.

"I used an e-cigarette when they smoked and I managed to go all weekend without smoking. And I have not had a cigarette since."

Ms Holden added: "I do vape if I go out and a have a few drinks with friends. But I don’t vape as much as I used to smoke. I probably only use my e-cigarette twice a week, at the most.

"I am trying to cut back with a view to giving up altogether. I will carry on vaping until I feel no need to use it anymore.

"I don’t miss smoking now. Initially, if I went outside a pub when people were smoking, I knew I would end up having a cigarette if I didn’t vape.

"Then I got to the stage where I didn’t feel like I needed a cigarette.

"I feel miles better now."

A few months after giving up smoking, Gill started training for a 10k event.

She added: “I completed it in just over an hour. I never thought I would ever do that. I had tried running a few times but I couldn’t keep going.

“When I was a smoker, I struggled to do shorter runs without getting out of breath and I just gave up trying.

“Completing the 10k was a real achievement and I am glad I persevered”.

“I would encourage other smokers to try an e-cigarette if they’re struggling to quit”.

“Like me, cigarette smokers may have to try a few different e-cigarettes before they get one that suits them.

“I stopped smoking because of the chesty coughs I suffered and I definitely feel better since.

“That says it all really!”

E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco which is proven to cause cancer and while they do contain nicotine, which is addictive, nicotine is not responsible for the major health harms from smoking.

Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK prevention champion and academic researcher said: "Tobacco is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer, so the more we can do to reduce the number of people who smoke tobacco-containing cigarettes, the more cancers we can prevent. Evidence so far shows e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking, so they are a worthwhile option for smokers struggling to quit."

Sarah Price, Director of Population Health at the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, supports the campaign. She said: “It’s great to see Cancer Research UK highlight that research shows vaping is far less harmful than smoking. Greater Manchester has higher smoking rates than most other areas of the UK, so we’re keen to help smokers understand their options. Swapping to an e-cigarette almost certainly offers smokers a far less harmful alternative to smoking tobacco.