Published on: 22 March 2023

Former smokers have warned how smoking destroys health and rips family life apart for a new quitting campaign launching in the North East this week.

Fresh is launching the Don’t be the 1 campaign across the region to warn at least 1 in every 2 long term smokers will die from a smoking-related disease.

Evidence shows at least 1 in 2 long term smokers will die from a smoking-related disease, but that risk may now be as high as 2 in 3 for early deaths among smokers. Risk increases with the amount of tobacco smoked per day and years smoked.

Despite decades of denial, the tobacco industry has long known about the addictiveness of cigarettes. Tobacco companies manipulated the addictiveness of cigarettes via changes in content and design to attract and retain smokers. As a consequence, smokers today are at a greater risk of disease than smokers in the 1960’s, despite smoking fewer cigarettes.

Around 314,000 people still smoke in the North East and a shocking 117,000 people have died in our region from smoking since the year 2000.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said:

"Smoking is still our biggest killer and robs too many North East families of loved ones far too soon.

"Like many families, I lost my dad Stewart to smoking when he was just 61 from COPD. He was a fisherman and county golf champion and he should have been enjoying his life, his family and his grandchildren rather than struggling for breath. We miss him every day.

"It is so wrong that most smokers get addicted as children, lured in deliberately by tobacco companies and are trapped in an addiction which costs them money and ruins health. We are running this campaign as a reminder of the risks and the impact on families everywhere.

"It is also time that the tobacco companies themselves were made to pay towards the damage they inflict."

Dr Ruth Sharrock is a respiratory consultant at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust and leads on treating tobacco dependency across the North East and North Cumbria. She said:

"Every day in my role I see patients with COPD and lung cancer. It is truly devastating to watch patients having to deal with such difficult diagnoses and also the impact on their family.

"The fact is the more you smoke, and the longer you wait to quit, the worse the risks from smoking. Every cigarette smoked is harmful, taking burning poisons into the lungs and around the body causing mutations which can cause cancer.

"The sooner you stop, the better and ideally quitting before 40 reduces most of the risks. But quitting at any age brings huge health benefits. Even with patients with a serious diagnosis, stopping smoking can have a significant effect on their life expectancy.

 "The message is clear that it is never too late, no matter how long you’ve smoked or how old you are"

Quitting smoking at any age dramatically lowers mortality from all major smoking-related diseases. Find tips, advice and local quit support here.