‘I smoked for 50 years and it nearly killed me – you need to quit now’

A grandfather who started smoking aged 12 has told of its devastating effects after being diagnosed with tongue cancer and undergoing life-saving surgery.

Henry Pridding, now 66, has had to wear a temporary brace to keep his jaw in place for the past six months and had a metal plate fitted against the bone.

Henry's gruelling 14-hour operation removed a tumour on his tongue and around ten of his teeth, reports Manchester Evening News . 

But since the surgery, which used skin from the grandfather's leg to create a new artificial tongue, Henry has finally quit smoking.

"I’m proof of what can happen," he said.


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Henry, from Clayton, Manchester, would use Golden Virginia tobacco to roll his own cigarettes each day, for 50 years.

His cancer scare came just a few years after his wife Tina, 57, was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Now the couple are urging other smokers to kick the habit.

Henry, who has 12 grandchildren, said: "Smoking has devastated our family, that’s why we all stopped smoking.

"We want to share our story in the hope that it will help other people stop – like we wish we had done before cancer struck.

"If you make one New Year’s resolution, make it to quit smoking. It might not be easy, but it’s worth it. We did it, you can too."


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When Henry had difficulty eating in 2016, he thought he had a mouth ulcer but his GP sent him for tests.

These revealed the sore was in fact tongue cancer.

The dad-of-five added: "You never think anything is going to happen.

"I started smoking when I was 12, then one day I was having trouble eating because there was something on my tongue.

"I just thought it was like a mouth ulcer or something like that. Of all places, they found cancer on the tongue.

"Most people say this won’t happen to me. I said that but look at me. I’m proof of what can happen."


Henry had surgery to remove the cancer and most of his tongue – a procedure which has affected his speech.

"I had most of my tongue removed," he went on.

"When I went in for the operation I had a roll-up and threw it in the bin and thought ‘that’s that’. I’ve never smoked since. And I never will."

Henry said it was his family that gave him the strength to fight his illness.

"They all need me so I just had to be there for them.

"If they hadn’t done the operation the chance is I wouldn’t be here," he continued.

"It sort of hits you, you know what I mean. And you say ‘how dumb have I been?’.

"Without family, you’re nothing."

Tina said she found it harder to quit after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012.

"One day I got up and I could hardly breathe. I knew what was causing it.

"I got lung cancer in my left lung. I had chemotherapy and it went away. I was very lucky."

Though she struggled, after several attempts, Tina has beaten the habit, along with their daughter, Vikki.

"I didn’t stop smoking like Henry, it took me loads of goes,” she explains.

"I had the patches, the drops, the chewing gum. I’d give anything not to have started."


Eventually, it was Tina’s love for her family that convinced her to leave the cigarettes behind.

She said: "I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my children and my husband. I mean, we’ve been together for 40 years."

Vikki, 35, has two children herself.

She said: "My sister smoked. My brother smoked. It was like a social thing. We would have something to eat and we’d go to have a cigarette.

"You don’t think about the complications on your health or anything like that.

"Seeing what he’s gone through – he went down to eight stone.

"He was giving up on himself.

"That’s the biggest wake up call that I think anyone would need, really. It genuinely has made me quit smoking."

The number of smokers in Greater Manchester alone fell by more than 27,000 in 2018, according to the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership has launched a new appeal to encourage smokers to kick the habit.

The Making Smoking History programme aims to reduce smoking rates in the city region by a third by the end of 2021.

Since the programme began there are 46,500 fewer smokers in Greater Manchester and four in ten smokers have made a serious quit attempt in the last year.

Sarah Price is the Partnership’s executive lead for population health.

She said stopping smoking is the most important thing a person can do for their health.

"The harms tobacco causes can be devastating both to individuals and their families," Sarah added.

"We’re committed to helping all of our residents who smoke to take action before these serious consequences take hold."

For more information, visit  YouCanGM.org  or call the GM Stop Smoking Helpline, on 0300 123 1044. Advice and support is also available from:

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