A MAJOR campaign is being launched to stop South Tyneside children being harmed by second-hand smoke.
Health bosses say that youngsters are breathing in harmful cancer-causing toxins and poisons by being near people who smoke each day.
They argue it increases the chances of children getting lung disease and meningitis, while also costing the NHS more than £23m annually.
The campaign comes after a survey of North-East children revealed some shocking statistics.
More than 80,000 North-East children are exposed to second-hand smoke in the home that puts them at increased risk of lung disease, meningitis and cot death.
It results in more than 12,000 GP visits and 400 hospital visits in the region each year.
The survey also revealed that 99 per cent of children want their parents to give up smoking, and that 97 per cent wished they wouldn’t light up cigarettes in front of them in the home.
The Government and doctors now want parents to keep their homes and cars smoke free so that children can lead healthier lives.
Ailsa Rutter, director of anti-smoking group Fresh, says mums and dads should do more to protect their youngsters from second-hand smoke.
She said: “When a cigarette burns, the smoke contains thousands of toxic chemicals including tar, hydrogen cyanide and arsenic.
“Many parents do already take steps such as opening a window, but this doesn’t stop the toxic poisons contained in smoke filling a room or a car and children breathing it in.
“These fumes can hang around for hours.
“The only way to protect your child is to make your home or car completely smoke free.”