Smokers who have cut down on their habit are still at risk of health issues, campaigners say.
Fresh has re-launched its Don’t be the 1 campaign, which warns that half of all long-term smokers will die from smoking unless they quit.
And officials say smokers who cut back and only have a few cigarettes a day are still at substantial risk.
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.”
A survey by Fresh found many smokers have cut down – with one in five smokers consuming five or fewer cigarettes a day compared to 1 in ten smokers in 2009.
However, evidence shows smoking just a few cigarettes raises your risks of heart disease very quickly; women aged between 35 and 49 years who smoke one to four cigarettes per day have five times the risk of developing lung cancer and men have three times the risks of non-smokers; people who smoke one to four cigarettes a day have more than double the risk of stomach cancer and light smoking also has an impact on frailty in older people.
Prof John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies and a consultant in respiratory medicine, said: “Many smokers who are aware of the risks will cut down on how much they smoke, hoping this will reduce the harm.
“But the fact is that there is no safe level of smoking. Even one cigarette a day carries a substantial health risk, especially for heart disease.
“If you’re worried about the effect of smoking on your health, or the health of those around you, you need to quit smoking.
“If you still need nicotine you can get that from medicines or electronic cigarettes, but you have to say goodbye to all tobacco.”
For more information on stop smoking support in North Tyneside call (0191) 643 7171.