Campaign warns 1 in 2 North East smokers will die from a smoking related disease

  • Campaign warns 1 in 2 North East smokers will die from a smoking related disease
  • But the risks may be even worse, increasing with amount smoked
  • Former smokers share stories

Former smokers have warned how smoking destroys health and rips family life apart for a new quitting campaign launching in the North East this week. Fresh is launching the Don’t be the 1 campaign across the region to warn at least 1 in every 2 long term smokers will die from a smoking-related disease.

Evidence shows at least 1 in 2 long term smokers will die from a smoking-related disease[i], but that risk may now be as high as 2 in 3[ii] for early deaths among smokers. Risk increases with the amount of tobacco smoked per day and years smoked.

Despite decades of denial, the tobacco industry has long known about the addictiveness of cigarettes. Tobacco companies manipulated the addictiveness of cigarettes via changes in content and design to attract and retain smokers. As a consequence, smokers today are at a greater risk of disease than smokers in the 1960’s, despite smoking fewer cigarettes[iii].

Around 314,000 people still smoke in the North East and a shocking 117,000 people have died in our region from smoking since the year 2000.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Smoking is still our biggest killer and robs too many North East families of loved ones far too soon.

“Like many families, I lost my dad Stewart to smoking when he was just 61 from COPD. He was a fisherman and county golf champion and he should have been enjoying his life, his family and his grandchildren rather than struggling for breath. We miss him every day.

“It is so wrong that most smokers get addicted as children, lured in deliberately by tobacco companies and are trapped in an addiction which costs them money and ruins health. We are running this campaign as a reminder of the risks and the impact on families everywhere.

“It is also time that the tobacco companies themselves were made to pay towards the damage they inflict”

Dr Ruth Sharrock is a respiratory consultant at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust and leads on treating tobacco dependency across the North East and North Cumbria. She said:

“Every day in my role I see patients with COPD and lung cancer. It is truly devastating to watch patients having to deal with such difficult diagnoses and also the impact on their family.

“The fact is the more you smoke, and the longer you wait to quit, the worse the risks from smoking. Every cigarette smoked is harmful, taking burning poisons into the lungs and around the body causing mutations which can cause cancer.

“The sooner you stop, the better and ideally quitting before 40 reduces most of the risks. But quitting at any age brings huge health benefits. Even with patients with a serious diagnosis, stopping smoking can have a significant effect on their life expectancy.”

 “The message is clear that it is never too late, no matter how long you’ve smoked or how old you are”

Former smokers Davey Bratton and Damon Mowbray are backing the campaign.

Davey Bratton

Electrician Davey Bratton, 35, is an ex-smoker whose mum Maggie’s story went around the world as far as New Zealand as part of a quitting campaign in 2016. Although Maggie died in 2020 from a non-smoking related cause, Davey was able to tell his mum he’d quit just two days before she died. The family have had messages from people from around the world thanking them for the encouragement to quit.

“Now that my mam’s passed away I’m the only one left to continue her legacy. She’d be proud if just one more person quit from seeing the campaign.

“When my mam’s ad was running I felt guilty because I was still smoking. Eventually I thought I’m going to make me mam proud and quit smoking again. The last conversation I had with her on Facetime was me with a vape saying I’d quit smoking. She died knowing that I’d quit so that makes me happy.”

Read Davey’s full story here

Damon Mowbray

Care assistant, Damon Mowbray, 49, from Hartlepool, quit after suffering a heart attack while at work aged just 46. After being rushed to hospital he had surgery to have two stents fitted.

“ When I saw the doctor, he said my heart attack was caused by smoking, so I knew I had to quit there and then.

“My advice to anyone who is thinking about making a quit attempt is don’t give up. Keep trying to quit as you don’t want to end up like me. Make sure you get support and find a quitting method that works for you.”

Read Damon’s full story here.

Quitting smoking at any age dramatically lowers mortality from all major smoking-related diseases[iv]. Find tips, advice and local quit support here.


[i] The Doctors Study” (Doll R, Peto R, Wheatley K, Gray R, Sutherland I. Mortality in relation to smoking: 40 years observations on male British doctors. British Medical Journal 1994; 309:901-911). This study started in 1951 in the UK, had a 40 year follow-up, and was finally published in 1994. It found that we had substantially underestimated the hazards of long term tobacco use and that half of all regular cigarette smokers will eventually be killed by their habit. A follow up 10 years later on the same study confirmed the findings

[ii]2 out of 3 smokers will die from smoking unless they quit” The Khan review – “Making smoking obsolete”. Independent review commissioned by the UK Government into smokefree 2030 policies by Dr Javed Khan OBE, Published 9 June 2022

“Up to two-thirds of deaths in current smokers can be attributed to smoking”. Cessation reduces mortality compared with continuing to smoke, with cessation earlier in life resulting in greater reductions. E. Banks, G. Joshy, M.F. Weber, B. Liu, R. Grenfell, S. Egger, E. Paige, A.D. Lopez, F. Sitas, V. Beral. Tobacco smoking and all-cause mortality in a large Australian cohort study: findings from a mature epidemic with current low smoking prevalence. BMC Medicine 2015: volume 13, number 38

“Among UK women, two-thirds of all deaths of smokers in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are caused by smoking.” The 21st century hazards of smoking and benefits of stopping: a prospective study of one million women in the UK”, Lancet. 2013 Jan 12)


[iv] 50-Year Trends in Smoking-Related Mortality in the United States


[vi] Ready Reckoner – Action on Smoking and Health  A cost calculator, allowing you to see the costs of smoking to society