A new hard-hitting anti-smoking campaign has been launched in the North East highlighting how one in two long-term smokers will die prematurely - as early as in their 40s.
The "Don't be the 1" campaign has been developed by Fresh Smokefree North East - an organisation set up in 2005 to tackle one of the worst rates of smoking related illness and death in England.
Since then, the North East has seen the number of adult smokers fall at twice the national average. But more than 460,000 people in the region still smoke and - according to a recent survey by Fresh - 9 out of 10 smokers seriously underestimate their risks of dying from smoke-related illness.
Michelle Barthram, 47, from Gateshead, had been smoking since the age of 13 but recently quit after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer last year. Michelle says her diagnosis made her realise just how dangerous the habit is. She said:
– Michelle Barthram
"I don't think any kind of statistics make any difference to a smoker. You're hooked. It's so strong, the will to smoke.
But when he [Michelle's doctor] told me on the 4th of December that it was small cell lung cancer and the survival rate is terrible, it was instant that I didn't touch a cigarette."
The Fresh survey of North East smokers also found:
- more than six out of ten smokers say their family worry about them smoking
- eight out of ten smokers wish they had never started
- 68% would like to see smoking become a thing of the past for future generations