AFTER 30 years and almost 500,000 cigarettes, nurse Alice Churchill has decided to kick the habit for good.

Mrs Churchill, from Bicester, decided to stub out her 40- a-day habit when she realised she could no longer keep up when playing football with her five-year-old grandson .

She also pondered the £125,000 which had gone up in smoke – based on a packet of 20 currently costing £5.

The news comes as NHS statistics released yesterday revealed more than 3,550 Oxfordshire people successfully gave up smoking in the past year.

The figure does not include the thousands of Oxfordshire people who decide to go it alone each year.

Mrs Churchill, 47, is one of them.

The grandmother of one has so far not used NHS help to give up smoking and has bought her own nicotine patches, inhalators and lozenges.

She has decided her health drive should also benefit others – by starting a sponsored ‘cease smoke’ to raise enough money to take residents from St Edburg’s House care home, where she works as care leader, on a seaside holiday.

Mrs Churchill, who started smoking when she was just 13 and lived in Edinburgh, said: “I was playing football in the park with my husband, son and grandson, and I realised I couldn’t keep up.

“My grandson even made me go and stand in the goal because I was getting so out of breath. It really hit home then.

“So far I have managed two weeks without cigarettes and I am taking each day as it comes.

“But my family and everyone here has been a great help. All the residents keep me motivated.”

Laura Wardak, smoking cessation coordinator for NHS Oxfordshire , said “Giving up smoking is the single best thing that you can do for your health.

“In the UK, tobacco kills around 106,000 people a year and half of all regular smokers will die from a smoking related disease.

“Many will die in middle age losing up to 25 years of life.

“Each day 1,000 patients are admitted to NHS hospitals due to diseases caused by smoking.

“We would advise anyone who wants help to quit smoking to go to our website or phone our helpline.”

As for Mrs Churchill, she is already feeling the benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle.

She said: “I am enjoying not waking up in the middle of the night coughing and I feel better already.

“We are off on a work night out tomorrow so that will be a real test of willpower.

“But everybody has been more than supportive and the residents are really driving me on.

For help giving up, go to smokefreeoxford- or call 0845 4080300