A FORMER smoker who lost a lung to cancer says addicts should quit before it kills them.
John Hughes said people should learn from him and his family's history and kick the habit. The 63-year-old's father, also John, died of lung cancer 15 years ago.
John junior spoke out in support of the Evening Times' Clear the Air campaign, which aims to persuade people to stop smoking. John had to have his left lung removed after being diagnosed with cancer five years ago.
He said: "It killed my father. I'm very lucky. There are two types of lung cancer, small cell and non-small cell, and I had non-small cell.
"The small cell is the one which spreads rapidly and that's the one my father had. It went to his brain.
"People should listen and stop, not tomorrow, not this week, immediately.
"Give yourself a fighting chance. I see people smoking and I say 'look at me'."
John, a former long-distance lorry driver whose jobs included delivering beer for Tennant's Brewery, started smoking when he was a 15-year-old schoolboy. He went on to play professional football for East Stirling in his 20s.
"I was a social smoker, but once I finished with the football and I was into work it was boredom, driving all the way to England."
He soon developed a pack-a-day habit but managed to quit around 20 years ago after teaming up with a co-worker.
John said: "Both of us stopped together but after about three weeks he started back, but I continued." And though the risks of developing smoking-related illnesses drop after you give up, the risks are still there.
And 15 years later John's habit came back to haunt him.
He started getting back pains and felt breathless in December 2007. John, from Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, said: "The doctor thought I had asthma but I didn't at all.
"It was one night I was driving home and I felt a bit queasy, and I started coughing up blood. My wife Margaret phoned NHS 24 and I went to Hairmyres Hospital. They kept me in for tests.
"It was lung cancer. I was devastated.
"You think it's the end of the world, because I'd never heard of anybody surviving it."
But John was lucky. Only 9% of people with lung cancer in the UK survive for five years or more. And he believes the fact that he is alive today is down to having quit smoking all those years ago.
Surgeons were able to remove his left lung, and the disease hadn't spread. However, his vocal cord was severed, leaving him unable to talk properly for a year.
He said: "I couldn't speak after it. I was very hoarse, and I couldn't speak on the phone and nobody could hear me or understand me."
Further surgery managed to correct the problem though John, who has a son Scott, 39, still gets out of breath easily.
He said of Clear the Air: "It's marvellous, keep it going, especially for the young ones.
" I look about and there seems to be an awful lot of young girls smoking now."
n A cough that doesn't go away after three weeks.
n Coughing more often and more severely than usual.
n Coughing up blood.
n Shortness of breath.
n Feeling weak or more tired than usual.
n Losing weight.
n Pain in the rib cage or shoulder.
n Chest infections and hoarseness.
n Swelling of the face and neck.