New figures out today show a historic low in number of smokers in the region.
The statistics reveal smoking rates in the North East having nearly halved since 2005.
Smoking among adults in the area fell from 17.2% in 2016 to 16.2% in 2017 according to the Annual Population Survey from the ONS.
The fall is nearly twice the national average since 2016 and also means smoking rates have fallen by over 44% since 2005 when 29% of North East adults smoked – around a quarter of a million fewer smokers.
Quitting group, Fresh, is now urging smokers who have struggled to quit before to try to stop at least once a year and take heart from the hundreds of thousands of other people who have stopped for good.
It also comes at a time when NHS trusts nationwide are being urged by organisations such as the Royal College of Physicians, Public Health England and NHS England to support all patients to quit.
Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "It is very encouraging to see the North East is still making faster progress to reduce smoking, and we have narrowed the gap on other areas such as the South East.
“In 2005, our adult smoking rates were on 29% and these new figures show we are getting close to halving smoking. 2017 saw the continued roll out of standardised packaging, and further evidence that electronic cigarettes are a much safer option for smokers who switch.
“As smoking among adults has fallen, we have also seen fewer children start in the first place. The North East has set a vision of 5% of people smoking by 2025 and we can make it happen.”
Amanda Healy, Director of Public Health for County Durham and Chairman of the North East Network of Directors of Public Health, said: “Much credit goes to local authorities across the North East for prioritising efforts to reduce smoking.
“What will make an additional impact now is for all our hospitals and primary care to complement this work by raising smoking at every opportunity and supporting patients to quit. That brings benefits not just to patients but to our whole NHS.”
Claire Sullivan, Deputy Director for Health, Wellbeing and Workforce, Public Health England North East, said: “We know that tobacco is the biggest preventable cause of premature death in the UK, and reducing smoking rates remains a key priority for Public Health England.
"The North East’s progress around smoking over recent years demonstrates how we can make a real difference to people's lives by working together.”
Last month the Royal College of Physicians called for a significant change in the way the NHS treats smoking – ensuring all smokers are provided with support to quit from the moment they are admitted.
Statisitcs show that smoking kills around 5,584 people in the North East every year and that those who start smoking at the start of adult life lose an average of 10 years of life expectancy.
Smoking is a recognised cause of numerous cancers, COPD, heart disease and stroke, but it also increases the risks of conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, flu, asthma and dementia.