Smokers who cut down on their habit are being warned they still face significant risks of cancer and heart disease unless they quit.
A new anti-smoking campaign is being launched in the North East today with people being warned that even light smokers are still risking knocking years off their lifespan.
Anti smoking group Fresh is re-launching the ‘Don’t be the 1’ campaign and warning that half of all long-term smokers will die from their habit - meaning that, of the region’s 392,000 smokers, 196,000 people are at risk unless they quit.
Smoking cuts around 10 years off a person’s life on average.
With many smokers cutting down to ten or fewer cigarettes a day, or to hand rolling tobacco, Fresh is warning people not to ignore the substantial risks from even moderate smoking.
The warning comes after Fresh found that, as well as record numbers of people quitting in the North East, many smokers have cut down - with one in five consuming five or fewer cigarettes a day compared to one in 10 in 2009.
However, medical evidence shows:
• Smoking just a few cigarettes raises the risk of heart disease very quickly. The risk of heart disease in people aged 35 to 39 who smoke four or fewer cigarattes a day nearly three times that of a non-smoker.
• Women aged between 35 and 49 years who smoke four or fewer cigarettes a day are at five times the risk of developing lung cancer and men run three times the risks of non-smokers.
• Deaths from respiratory disease, such as emphysema, are six times more common in people who smoke between one and 10 cigarettes a day than among those who have never smoked.
• People who smoke between one and four cigarettes a day have more than double the risk of stomach cancer.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “In the North East we have seen the biggest fall in smoking in England over the last decade, and people who are still smoking are smoking less than they were.
“Cost and awareness of the health risks are both factors. If you only smoke a few cigarettes a day, it must be tempting to hope the risks don’t apply. However, the evidence is clear that even a few cigarettes a day can cause cancer and heart disease, and change lives forever.
“We are urging people to think about quitting for their family. Cutting down can help people to quit, but taking the next step is vital. In the run up to No Smoking Day we are urging people to ditch tobacco completely or if they aren’t ready to quit nicotine, to switch to a safer way of getting it, like an electronic cigarette.”
For advice on stopping smoking, call South Tyneside Change 4 Life on 0191 424 7300