A WOMAN has come forward to describe how she was required to smoke cigarettes as part of her job, after reading about a fellow worker who developed inoperable lung cancer.

Julie Wilson, of Wolsingham, in Weardale, began working at Rothmans International plant at Spennymoor in County Durham in 1978, aged 20, and was employed there for six years.

She was required to smoke as part of her job as a laboratory technician testing moisture levels and checking that cigarettes met quality standards.

She was also allowed to buy 200 cigarettes tax-free every week, further incentivising her to smoke.

She only quit nearly 40 years later after developing angina which gave her severe chest pains and made her out of breath after walking for short periods.

Julie said: “I smoked 20 cigarettes a day and would’ve smoked more if I could afford it. I was definitely addicted, I would panic if there weren’t cigarettes around.

“If I woke up in the night, I would smoke. Rothmans encouraged smoking, it wasn’t right how they supplied free cigarettes, I was expected to smoke as part of my job and cigarettes were available at every turn. I didn’t think anything of it, as nothing was said about the health risks.”

Her revelation follows publicity in The Northern Echo about the case of Simon Neale, 57, who is suffering from inoperable lung cancer because of cigarettes given to him when he was a salesman for Rothmans, now part of British American Tobacco (BAT).

Today, World No Tobacco Day, the tobacco control programme Fresh is calling for tobacco companies to pay towards the damage they cause. It comes as new figures show more than seven in 10 adults in the North-East support calls for a “polluter pays” charge on tobacco companies to reduce smoking among adults and young people.

ASH says, although the tobacco industry denied publicly that smoking was addictive and downplayed the health risks, internal documents make it clear that they were well aware of the dangers.

The group has challenged all four major tobacco manufacturers, BAT, Imperial Tobacco, Gallaher (part of Japan Tobacco International) and Philip Morris International, (PMI) about these practices and what they did to warn people of the risks.

British American Tobacco has said: “Historically, BAT employees had the option to receive a monthly allowance of cigarettes.

“At all times, these products complied with all applicable laws and regulations, including the relevant health warnings.

“In a small number of markets – six out of approximately 200 – this allowance continues as a result of collective bargaining agreements with local trade unions and the products supplied comply with all applicable local regulations, including health warnings.”