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.
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Following criticism from MPs and campaigners, the work and pensions secretary said the helpline would be free by the end of the year.
Mary Reid has been recognised for tending to German war graves in Castletown cemetery for more than 60 years.