SMOKERS in the North-East are massively underestimating the risks of dying prematurely, according to a new TV campaign which reveals one in two long-term smokers will die early.

This is the message of the new “Don’t be the One” advertising campaign from the council-funded campaign group, Fresh, which is urging the North-East's 460,000 smokers to quit and live longer for their loved ones.

Meanwhile, the number of adults smoking in England has fallen below 20 per cent for the first time in probably 80 years, according to experts from University College London.

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''Smoking was rare at the start of the 20th century but increased relentlessly until the publication of Smoking And Health in 1962, by which time over 70% of men and 40% of women smoked," said the researchers.

''The decline in prevalence started in the 1970s and has since averaged 0.6% a year. In 2013 it was slightly higher, at 0.8%.''

The survey of North-East smokers by Fresh found

• nine out of 10 smokers seriously underestimate the risks, with some believing only 1 in 20 smokers will die as a result.

• More than six out of ten say their family worries about them smoking.

• Eight out of ten wish they had never started

• 68 per cent wish smoking could become a thing of the past for future generations.

The TV ad shows the impact of smoking on families will encourage smokers to click on for support to quit and to order a free Quit Kit online.

Anyone concerned about a friend or relative smoking can also send an e-card telling them they care and urging them to stop.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: "It is a shocking message but smoking tobacco is much more harmful than most people think. These are odds nobody would want.

"Quitting lowers your risk of dying early at any age, but the sooner you quit, the better.

"This is why we are encouraging everyone who smokes to make a real effort to quit this time, because they have parents, partners, children, grandchildren who love them, worry about them and want them to be there."

There are more than 4,000 smoking-related deaths every year in the North-East.

It causes more than a dozen types of cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung disease and increases the risk of diabetes, dementia and blindness.