TWO former smokers who faced losing limbs or their livelihoods through smoking are urging others to quit as part of Stoptober as the region records an all-time low number of smokers.

James Degnen, 67, and Craig Hannan, 39, both from Middlesbrough, have contributed to a report published today revealing that quitting success rates are at their highest for at least a decade.

A report released on by North-East campaign group, Fresh, has shown around 17 per cent of the North-East population are smokers – a historic low for the region.

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Figures have been released by Fresh from the University College of London report ahead of the sixth annual Stoptober campaign, which has attracted 50,000 sign-ups in the North-East since 2012.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “The North-East is now at a historic low for smoking with 17.2 per cent of people smoking in 2016 compared to 29 per cent of people in 2005.

“Smoking seems to be less desirable than ever before and quitting is much more appealing.”

Ex-smoker Mr Degnen underwent major vascular surgery to unblock veins in his legs and was given the choice of quitting smoking or losing a leg by surgeons earlier this year.

The warning came after the 67-year-old had already received a heart valve replacement in 2009 after a lifetime of casual smoking.

Like Mr Degnen, father-of-two Mr Hannan, started socially smoking as a teenager.

Mr Hannan said: “Back then I was smoking about 10-a-day, but once I left school, got a job and started earning, I began to smoke more because I thought I could afford to.

“Before I knew it I was smoking 20 and 30-a-day and it was costing a fortune.

“I stopped after an incident at the petrol station about four months ago.

“I’d handed over a £20 note and thought the cashier had made a mistake when I got no change back.”

Mr Degnen added: “If anyone is thinking about stopping smoking for Stoptober, I’d say just do it.

“It really is the best decision I’ve ever made.”