'Street' stars at crossroad over their smoking


The cobbles of Coronation Street will be strewn with fewer cigarette butts in 2003, according to two of the show's stars who pledged to kick the habit in a Dublin hotel yesterday.

The Weatherfield Two - Simon Gregson, who plays cabbie Steve McDonald, and his screen wife, Karen, played by Suranne Jones - have promised to try and give up as part of the newly launched Smoke-Free in 2003 campaign.

The Street's resident gambling wideboy, Vikram Desai (Chris Bisson), couldn't make it to the launch, but said he was giving up because "I don't intend gambling with my health any longer".

Six other members of the cast were also present to show support for the healthy New Year resolutions of colleagues.

The campaign aims to convince people to visit their doctor for help and advice on quitting on New Year's Day. It coincides with the launch of a pan-European survey which showed that, despite popular belief, only 3 per cent of smokers actually try to give up on January 1st.

The majority of those surveyed said it would be easier to do a bungee jump or abstain from sex for a month than give up smoking. The survey also found that while 78 per cent of smokers want to quit during 2003, the vast majority will not succeed using willpower alone.

The campaign is supported by GlaxoSmithKline, a company which makes medications designed to help smokers quit.

Coronation Street actor Gregson, a smoker for 15 years, said he was relying on willpower to quit, while his screen wife woud try nicotine replacement patches to curb her seven-year habit.

Speaking at the launch, Dublin GP Dr Stephen Murphy said January 1st was an appropriate time to stop. "We are justifiably concerned about road traffic deaths and suicides yet a shocking 17 people die every day in this country from a smoking-related illness."

Advocating that smokers visit their GPs for advice on how to quit, he said doctors had a real interest in helping their patients stop smoking. Research shows that the intervention of a GP can more than double a smoker's chance of quitting.

"There's many different kinds of smokers, and it's important to tailor advice and help for each individual," he said.