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Scientists from the region are backing a campaign which argues that smoking just 15 cigarettes could eventually lead to a cancerous tumour - that is a total of 15 overall - not 15 per day.
More than 3000 people died of smoking-related cancers in the North East and Cumbria in 2010.
Even though the number of smokers in the region is falling, campaigners say too many people are still dying unecessarily.
Dan Ashby's report contains some disturbing images.
You can watch his full report below.
The Professor of Clinical Genetics at Newcastle University explains why it's possible that only 15 cigarettes can lead to your genes becoming mutated.
The anti-smoking group Fresh and scientists from Newcastle University are backing a campaign showing that just 15 cigarettes can cause a genetic mutation, which could lead to cancer.
Latest figures reveal that more than 2,000 people died of smoking-related cancers in the North East in 2010.
A leading Newcastle scientist says smoking is responsible for 15 different types of cancer. The warning comes on World Cancer Day.
Prof John Burn, professor of clinical genetics at Newcastle University, said: "There are a lot of chemicals in tobacco smoke which essentially attach to and damage the DNA in our body's stem cells.
"Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health and it is crucial to stop for good."
New figures released by the Fresh, the anti-smoking campaign group, show that 14,813 people were diagnosed with cancer in the North East in 2009. The following year, the North East had an estimated 2,100 deaths from smoking-related cancer.