Smokers within #TeamGateshead are being encouraged to quit with the launch of a new campaign featuring warnings from former smokers.

Smoking Survivors shares the stories of two former smokers who have suffered from smoking-related cancers. Sue and Cathy were both diagnosed while in their 40s and share the impact on them and their families but also the huge benefits of stopping. Smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the UK and causes 16 different types of cancer.

People who smoke are being encouraged to “make a fresh quit” put smoking behind them and visit the regional quitting hub at for tips, advice and local quit support.

A survey* of people who smoke in the region shows that:

  • 77% regret they ever started to smoke
  • 46% say they really want to stop smoking
  • 53% are trying to either quit (13%) or cut down (40%)
  • 81% want to quit for health and 46% want to also quit for finances

Cathy Hunt, 57, from County Durham and originally from Sunderland had half a lung removed in 2015 but recently underwent surgery again in 2022 when the cancer returned. She has urged: “Don’t wait until it is too late – and don’t ever think like me it won’t happen to you.

“It is not easy to stop smoking, but you never want to have the Big C conversation with your loved ones. Trust me that is harder than stopping smoking.”

Sue Mountain, 57, from South Tyneside, started smoking at the age of 11 and was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer at the age of 48. She said: “I am sharing my story because I don’t want anybody else going through the journey that I went through because of smoking – or their family.

“When I was happy. I smoked. When I was stressed, I smoked. You lie to yourself and say you love smoking, but you need the cigarette – that’s the addiction.

“Smoking did its best to take my health and my life. Now I have taken my life back. You’ve got to keep on trying to quit – it’s worth it.”

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Cathy and Sue are incredibly brave, inspiring people and there are people everywhere like them whose health has been damaged by smoking. Every time you try to stop smoking you learn, even if you don’t succeed. That is why we are encouraging people to make a fresh quit – this time it can be different.”

While it can take a number of attempts to successfully stop for good, there are lots of ways to stop which can take a lot of the stress out of quitting.

Your chances are improved if you use a quitting aid or switching completely to vaping to reduce cravings. Stop Smoking Services can also help you develop a plan to help you stop for good – and at Gateshead, this includes the provision of 12 weeks of Nicotine Replacement Therapy or a free refillable e-cigarette in addition to tailored support.

Here’s how your body recovers when you quit

After 20 minutes
Your pulse rate starts to return to normal.

After 8 hours
Your oxygen levels are recovering, and the level of harmful carbon monoxide in your blood will have reduced by half.

After 48 hours
All carbon monoxide is flushed out. Your lungs are clearing out mucus and your senses of taste and smell are improving.

After 72 hours
If you notice that breathing feels easier, it’s because your bronchial tubes have started to relax. Also your energy will be increasing.

After 2-12 weeks
Blood will be pumping through to your heart and muscles much better because your circulation will have improved.

After 6 weeks
Smokers who stop have better mental health than those who continue to smoke. One study found that benefits could be seen as soon as six weeks and were maintained even a number of years after stopping.

After 3-9 months
Any coughs, wheezing or breathing problems will be improving as your lung function increases.

After 1 year
Great news! Your risk of heart attack will have halved compared with a smoker’s.

After 10 years
Your risk of death from lung cancer will have halved compared with a smoker’s.