A County Durham mum of four who beat cancer twice has taken her fight down to parliament.

Cathy Hunt, 57, was diagnosed with lung cancer and had half a lung removed in 2015 just two days before her 50th birthday.

She underwent surgery again in 2022 when the cancer returned, and in June this year had a kidney removed due to cancer. 

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As part of a wider regional campaign, Cathy is supporting calls for greater investment in public education campaigns and a levy on tobacco companies.

The mum of four, who is also a Conservative councillor for Durham County Council, was part of a group that attended the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health to mark four years since the Government committed to make England ‘smokefree’ by 2030 as part of the Prevention Green Paper.

Cathy and other campaigners have welcomed a new ‘swap to stop’ scheme for one million vape kits to help adults to quit, a financial incentive scheme for pregnant smokers and inserts to promote quitting in cigarette packs - but warn these will not be enough to meet the Government’s five per cent smoking target and fails to match strong public support for action.

Cathy said: “Too many people are becoming ill and dying from smoking.

"Tobacco companies lied to people about low tars and they lured more women into smoking through glossy marketing and slims, which has resulted in more lung cancer and COPD, and people like myself who might have quit instead getting cancer.

"They wanted us to keep smoking and those diseases are still being seen in our hospital wards today.

Cathy is one of the faces of the Fresh “Smoking Survivors” TV campaign encouraging smokers to quit.

The Northern Echo: Cathy Hunt Cathy Hunt (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

For Cathy, who started smoking at age 11, quitting smoking came from her family. 

She added: “You hear the word cancer and the first thing I thought was “how do I tell my girls?” For me it was only when I found out I had cancer that I stopped smoking, and even then quitting was the best thing I could do.

"But this is exactly why you need those warnings and constant reminders on the TV to stop more people getting that to that awful stage.

"It is so easy to put it to the back of your mind otherwise.

“I was 11 when I started smoking and most smokers begin as kids, long before you really understand addiction, or the risks.

"But tobacco companies understand the risks all too well. Tobacco companies are profiting and they should be sued and that money paid used for treatment and prevention.”

The latest ASH Smokefree GB survey carried out by YouGov finds that 50% of adults in the North East think the Government is not doing enough to address smoking with only 7% saying they are ‘doing too much’. 

Dr Ruth Sharrock, Respiratory Consultant and Clinical Lead for Tobacco Dependency for the North East and North Cumbria NHS said: “Up to two out of every three long term smokers will die from smoking and every day on our wards I see the widespread, devastating effects.

"For regions like the North East higher smoking rates are still resulting in more cancers and respiratory diseases.

“Decade after decade we treat smoking-caused diseases, but we need to support smokers to stop and prevent people starting in the first place.

"No one wants their children to suffer from cancer or wake up gasping for breath. That's why we need to create a smokefree future for the next generation and to stem the harm now.”