Doctors, health campaigners and former smokers in the North East have welcomed plans to “make smoking obsolete” in the UK.
More than 113,000 people in the North East have been killed by tobacco since 2000.
An independent report into the health issue was released on Thursday 9 June by Dr Javed Khan, with a list of recommendations to achieve that goal, including:
Raising the age you can buy cigarettes from 18, by one every year until eventually no-one can purchase them.
Promoting vapes as an effective 'swap to stop' tool to ease people into quitting.
A £125 million investment from the government into 'smokefree 2030' policies - with an extra £70 million a year specifically for stop smoking services.
Improving prevention work in the NHS so smokers are offered advice and support to quit at every interaction they have with health services.
Other interventions recommended in the report include a tobacco licence for retailers to limit the availability of tobacco across the country, and a rethink of the way cigarette sticks and packets look to reduce their appeal.
Former smoker Sue Mountain, from South Tyneside, underwent laser treatment in 2012 after a biopsy revealed she had laryngeal cancer.
The cancer returned in 2017 which required radiotherapy every day for four weeks.
Sue said she knows the huge impact smoking can have.
“As someone who’s had smoking-related cancer three times I know the heartbreak that smoking can cause," she added.
"I started when I was a kid, before I realised how addictive it was.
"I started smoking at primary school. Increasing the age of sale won’t stop everyone smoking but it would help stop a lot of people.
“The fact is that smoking has killed nearly eight million people in the UK in the last 50 years. Why do we tolerate this? Why aren’t we doing more to stop people dying?
“Tobacco companies are making massive profits from an addiction that robs people of their lives and their health.
"I believe they need to pay for the damage they do – more support for smokers and awareness campaigns encouraging people to stop.
“I don't want my grandchildren to go through what I went through. I think my view will be shared by many people who have smoked – it makes you even more concerned your loved ones don't follow. I could have bought half a house with the money I spent on smoking instead of cancer.”
Smoking in the North East
Ailsa Rutter OBE, director of Fresh North East, which campaigns for smoke free policies, said: “This is a landmark moment which will set the agenda for action over the next few years.
"Smoking is still our biggest killer - two out of three long term smokers will die from tobacco.
“This is a lifesaving, cross party issue that unites politicians from all sides with strong support from people across the country to make smoking history for more families and more children.
"Most of us have a friend or loved one who has died from smoking, including my own dad who died aged just 61.
“Most smokers start in their teenage years, trapping them in an addiction to spend tens of thousands of pounds on tobacco over a lifetime.
"Smoking attacks their body, their health, their mobility and independence. It costs local communities, the NHS and local authorities in health and social care."
The Government says the findings of the review from Dr Javed Khan OBE will be considered, and a response published as part of the government’s Health Disparities White Paper.
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