A new campaign has been launched across north Cumbria to encourage people to stop smoking.

Fresh, the UK's first dedicated regional programme for tobacco control, has launched the new campaign in the wake of the latest advice from Public Health England that smokers and vapers are more at risk of respiratory infections, and developing more severe symptoms if contracted.

Coronavirus symptoms may therefore be more severe in smokers.

The north east based campaign group has partnered with the North East and North Cumbria NHS Integrated Care System Prevention Board to reinforce the message that smokers should stop immediately.

Respiratory consultant Dr Ruth Sharrock, from Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust and a member of Gateshead Smokefree Alliance, said: “We all want to protect ourselves and our families right now, but that is especially important if you smoke."

“In the last few months we have seen the awful effects of COVID-19 across our hospitals and communities.

"We already know smoking causes many diseases, and harms the lungs and immune system and making it harder for the body to fight off infection.

"This means if you do get coronavirus, symptoms may be more severe.

"I am really proud to support this campaign and to share my own experiences, hoping that it inspires more people to make quit attempts.

“In my role, I particularly work with patients with COPD and Lung cancer, so I see the terrible harms of smoking on a daily basis. It is devastating to watch patients and their families having to deal with such difficult diagnoses.

“It is never too late to see the benefits that come from quitting smoking. Even if it has already caused health problems, whilst some diseases can not be reversed, the disability that they cause, or the response to treatment can still be improved by stopping. I see some incredible success stories from patients who have been able to stop, despite considerable health issues already - they get a new lease of life and all wish they had done it sooner. You should never give up on yourself – my advice is to give it another go and try until you succeed.”