A NEW campaign has revealed the stark risks that Hartlepool and East Durham people face each time they light up a cigarette.
And a North-East group has urged smokers to take heed – or it may be too late.
Officials at Fresh spoke out after the launch of the Public Health England campaign called Smokefree Health Harms.
It highlights the toxic cycle of dirty blood caused by inhaling the dangerous chemicals in cigarettes, including arsenic and cyanide flowing through the body and damaging major organs.
The chemicals move through the heart, the lungs and into the bloodstream, finally damaging cells in the brain.
Along with the heart and lungs, the brain is particularly vulnerable to these toxins, leading to a faster decline in functionality and an increased risk of stroke and dementia.
The new campaign offers support, advice and a range of tools for anyone looking to stop smoking.
In the North-East, smoking caused 552 deaths from heart disease and 174 deaths from strokes per year between 2008-10.
Ailsa Rutter, director of the campaign group Fresh, said: “Tobacco smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals and blocks the arteries, making them fatty and furred up.
“Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack or a stroke compared with people who have never smoked. The good news is that the risks can be greatly reduced by quitting smoking.
“Too many families in the North-East have been robbed of loved ones as a result of smoking.
“Quitting might not always be easy, but it’s better than leaving it until it is too late.”
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “We know about the serious effect smoking has on the heart and lungs but smokers need to be aware of how much potential damage is being done to the brain and other vital organs through toxins in cigarettes entering the blood.
“Smoking is the major cause of premature death, with one in two smokers dying prematurely from smoking related diseases.
“It is extremely worrying that people still underestimate the health harms associated with it.
“However, it is not all doom and gloom for smokers looking to quit this new year.
“Within five years of stopping smoking, your risk of stroke can be reduced to the same as a lifetime non-smoker.”
Anyone looking to quit can visit www.nhs.uk/smokefree to receive free support tools and find details of where they can get professional advice through their local NHS stop smoking service.