Hero Gerry Collins inspires 70,000 to stub out in poignant ads
A total of 70,000 people have given up smoking a year after the death of Gerry Collins who urged smokers to quit through a series of advertisements.
The first anniversary of Mr Collins' death from lung cancer occurred yesterday.
The 57-year-old from Greystones, Co Wicklow was the face of a national Health Service Executive (HSE) campaign to encourage people to give up smoking.
Figures from the HSE show that the number of smokers fell by 70,000 last year, the largest decrease since 2009.
In addition, based on the uptake of services, over 200,000 quit attempts were made in Ireland since the ads commenced.
The HSE expressed its gratitude to the family of Mr Collins, saying that the response to his bravery in sharing his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer as a result of smoking had been extraordinary.
Dr Stephanie O'Keeffe said that Gerry and his family made a courageous and unique contribution to the health and wellbeing of our society by allowing Irish people to share their most difficult days during 2013 and 2014.
Mr Collins featured in a hard -hitting TV campaign, showing him discussing his smoking, his illness, his expected death and the anticipated loss to his family.
The former Dublin footballer wanted to inspire other people to quit smoking and help them to avoid the pain of illness and premature separation from their loved ones.
His wish, which is supported now by his surviving family, was that his adverts would continue to do this work after he had passed away.
"By working with us on the QUIT campaign to create hard-hitting and powerful anti-smoking ads, they have created a legacy of which Gerry was and would continue to be very proud.
"I would like to express my sincere thanks to his family and friends on Gerry's anniversary for the enormous contribution they have made to reducing tobacco use in Ireland," Dr O'Keeffe, the National Director of Health and Wellbeing, said.
Dave Molloy, the HSE national tobacco lead, said Gerry saved lives and helped many people avoid the pain, illness and loss caused by smoking.
"This week, we will mark Gerry's anniversary by sharing a short film made last year about his experience, on our website and on our Facebook page.
"We will also by placing thank you messages in some national papers.
"We would like to invite anyone who was touched by Gerry's message, or who quit smoking because of his story, to comment and share their thanks with Gerry's incredibly brave family," said Mr Molloy.