Published on: 13 March 2024

Cancer survivors, campaigners and young people from the North East will be in Parliament today, No Smoking Day, to call on the government to commit to creating a smokefree generation.

Cancer survivors Sue Mountain and Cathy Hunt will be joining Action on Smoking and Health, MPs and Peers, Fresh and members of Durham Youth Council at the event held by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health in Parliament.

People from across the country will be at the event to tell their stories about the impact of smoking on their lives, why they want to grow up in a smokefree UK and why parliamentarians should back the vision for a smokefree generation.

Fresh welcomed a Government announcement by the Prime Minister in January to press ahead with a historic new law to “stop the start” of new smokers by making it illegal for any child who turned 14 last year or younger to be ever sold lethal tobacco products in England. However, to date no moves have been made to move forward with legislation.

There is strong North East support to create a smokefree generation with:

  • 73% of North East adults supporting plans to raise the age of sale by a year each year.
  • Over 50 organisations from the North East submitted responses in a major consultation in the Autumn – from fire and rescue, local authorities and NHS Trusts to the Association of Directors of Public Health North East and the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board.

The event follows new polling last week showing that more than two thirds of the public want to see the country free from smoking and new analysis from UCL which found that every day 350, 18-25 year olds start smoking regularly.

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

"I’m proud to see so many from the North East at this important event asking parliamentarians to do something amazing and to end the harm of smoking.

"Countless families in our region have suffered from the death and diseases of smoking. Adult smoking rates in the North East have more than halved since the turn of the century but people still feel the harm and the pain.

"There is huge public support for a smokefree generation – and no wonder when most smokers start as children on an addiction which costs tens of thousands of pounds and kills 2 out of 3.

"The next few months will give our parliamentarians one of the biggest chances they will ever have to prevent our biggest cause of cancer, stop the start of young smokers and create a better life free of addiction for our children.

"We are urging them to take this chance without delay – it will be a significant moment to help transform the nation’s health and ease a massive pressure on our NHS and economy."

Speaking at the event will be Cathy Hunt from County Durham, who had half a lung removed when she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015.

She underwent surgery again last year when the cancer returned and also had a kidney removed after she was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

Watch her film here.

She said:

"If you smoke, take every opportunity to try to quit whenever you can, and get all the support you need. Believe me – you will look back on those big moments like all the important birthdays, all the New Years and all the No Smoking Days and wish you had stopped sooner. Don’t ever think like me it won’t happen to you.

"This is a huge year, when the government has said it will raise the age of sale and create a smokefree generation. It can’t come soon enough, to stop kids today becoming lung cancer patients in their 40s and 50s. The pain, the surgery and the worry of lung cancer is the last thing I want for my daughters or anybody else.

"Tobacco companies make and sell a product which is addictive and kills 2 out of 3 smokers. We now have a chance to stop the start of young smokers and I would urge everyone and anyone to support this."

Members of Durham Youth Council will be attending the event after filming a plea to the government from members.

Makayla Harwood, 12, a member of Durham Youth Council, and said:

"It’s so easily preventable and something so many people are losing their lives from. It is sad that so many people are still being damaged by something as terrible as smoking. We live in a century when we know it hurts us, but we still do it and they’re still on the market.

"This piece of law will make us safer, take some of that temptation away and keep us healthier for longer. It will also mean less people getting sick because of it which makes things easier on all our amazing NHS staff and everything. It’s such an important thing."

Lucas Wainwright 15, a member of Durham Youth Council, added:

"It's crucial for everyone to understand the real consequences of smoking, and I believe this legislation will play a significant role in safeguarding the health of future generations."

Smoking and cancer survivors Cathy and Sue are two former smokers who were diagnosed with cancer while still in their 40s, experiencing painful and life changing surgery, having to tell their children they had cancer, and years of worry.

They are encouraging people to put smoking behind them for the 40th anniversary of No Smoking Day.

Cathy and Sue’s emotional plea has been featured widely on TV adverts, radio and billboards across the North East and North Cumbria with the latest campaign launched in the run up to No Smoking Day 2024. 

The campaign from Fresh is part of a commitment by all 12 local authorities in the region and the North East and North Cumbria NHS Integrated Care Board to reduce smoking – the leading cause of health inequalities, and the biggest cause of cancer and preventable deaths.

One in four (26%) smokers who saw or heard “Smoking Survivors” cut down, 9% said they tried to quit and 7% switched to vaping.

People who want to quit can find tips, advice, free online tools and free local support at the regional quit smoking support website