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"Smoking took my Uncle Richard from us. We all need to pull together and save lives from smoking".

Pictured: Rachel McIlvenna, Smokefree NHS strategic manager for the North East and North Cumbria, hosted by County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

Smoking took my Uncle Richard from us, we all need to pull together and save lives from smoking.

I know the dangers of smoking first-hand. It's only five years since my Uncle Richard died from cancer caused by a lifetime of chain-smoking.

I vividly remember those childhood visits to Richard's house. You couldn't see the other end of the room through the cloud of cigarette smoke.

Uncle Richard was only 64. He should still be with us now, spending time with his three children or reading his favourite thrillers by James Hadley Chase.

The most tragic thing is that it's not unusual. So many friends and colleagues have lost someone to smoking and the illnesses it brings.

Smoking is our region's number one cause of avoidable ill health. It kills us in our thousands.

That's why I'm so glad that helping people to quit is a top priority in the North East and North Cumbria. And for hundreds of people in our region's hospitals, it's just got a whole lot easier.

Any smoker admitted to hospital in the North East and North Cumbria will now be offered specialist tobacco dependency treatment for the best possible chance of succeeding.

Just as people with high blood pressure have medication for their condition, smokers will get clinical care for their dependency while in hospital.

Going tobacco-free – even if it's just while you're in hospital – helps your recovery and makes it less likely that you'll be back in hospital soon. That extra specialist help makes all the difference.

We hear so many heart-warming stories, like Debra, who had never managed to quit for more than two weeks in her 35 years as a smoker. After 12 weeks smoke-free, Debra told us: “I wouldn't have given it a go if this service wasn’t there. I will not be going back to smoking now!”

Helping people to quit is one of the biggest things we can do to improve people's health in our region. Together we want to bring the smoking rate down from 13% to 5% of people by 2030, as a big step towards the goal of a healthier, smoke-free future.

That means fewer people in hospital with cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and cardiovascular disease. And as smoking hits deprived communities the hardest, it can help us reduce inequality.

If you're currently smoking, remember – it's never too late to quit.

And for those of us working in health and care, we all have a part to play. That 30-second conversation with a patient could be the one that makes the difference, so they know that there is help available.

Want to know more?

Find out more about quitting from the NHS website.

Read about the people and organisations working together to bring a smoke-free region within reach.

Find out more about how the ICB and its partners are working to treat tobacco dependency in our region on the ICB website or read this document by Ash (Action on Smoking and Health).

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