Campaigners are calling on tobacco companies to pay towards reducing smoking.
Latest figures show that 34,000 households in the north east could be lifted out of poverty by quitting smoking.
Every year thousands of people in the north east die or have their lives changed forever by smoking related illnessesLisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh
Officials at the charity Fresh say more can be done to help those quit the habit.
A new five year blueprint to tackle smoking – called ‘Smoking Still Kills’ – has been launched, which includes calls for the tobacco industry to pay towards action to help more adults to stop and fewer children to start.
Fresh says such a move would save thousands of lives in the north east over the next decade, move more families out of poverty, help the regional economy, and save the region’s NHS and local authorities millions of pounds.
Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh, said: “Every year thousands of people in the north east die or have their lives changed forever by smoking related illnesses.
“At the same time thousands of young people take up smoking, storing up a burden of ill health and premature death for the future.
“As this report makes clear we must go further and do more. Most smokers regret ever starting and do not want their own children to start.
“At a time when so many people are struggling, these figures show how thousands of north east families could feel better off by quitting smoking.
“More than ever it’s the poorest people in our society who take up smoking younger and are more likely to suffer from tobacco related diseases.”
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of British Heart Foundation, said: “We need a comprehensive new strategy, sustained investment in tobacco control and strong political will to show we are serious about reducing the devastating damage that smoking causes.
“By cutting smoking rates further, we can reduce the rate of heart attacks almost immediately, and deliver longer term benefits by reducing cardiovascular conditions that cause so much suffering and cost the country dearly.”
Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, added: “Any strategy to prevent cancer in this country must have a strong focus on tobacco.
“Smoking Still Kills provides a blueprint for the Government to show it remains seriously committed to tackling tobacco over the next five years.
“The real cost of this lethal and addictive product is borne by the people who suffer its effects through cancer and other diseases.
“But there is also a financial cost to the NHS and to society.
“This should be picked up by the tobacco companies themselves, who have been the agents of an epidemic which continues to impose a devastating economic and social burden on this country.”