A cancer campaigner who lost her father to lung cancer is issuing a rallying cry for MPs and the government to back a proposed law change to raise the age of sale of tobacco.

The call from Karen Colpitts, 62, from Norton, Stockton, whose dad Kenneth Jones smoked as a young boy and continued until he died in 2001, comes as new analysis by Cancer Research UK estimates up to 400,000 fewer cigarettes will be smoked in the North East each day by 2040 if the legislation is successfully implemented.

If passed by MPs, it would raise the legal age of sale of tobacco products in England by one year every year, meaning anyone born on or after January 1, 2009 will never be able to legally be sold cigarettes.

As the legislation – introduced to Parliament on March 20 – now heads towards a crucial vote later this spring, Karen, a mum of two and grandma of three, is urging the region’s MPs to make history by helping to create the first 'smoke-free generation'.

The Northern Echo: Karen ColpittsKaren Colpitts (Image: CANCER RESEARCH)

Between now and 2040 - around the time the first of these youngsters will turn 30 - the number of cigarettes that would go unsmoked across the UK would add up to tens of billions, according to Cancer Research.

That’s if the Government’s best-case modelling of a 90 per cent reduction in rates of young people across England taking up smoking is achieved.

This could have a profound impact in County Durham and across the North East, where tobacco kills one person every two hours and is responsible for around 3,100 cancer deaths each year, according to data.

Karen understands the terrible toll of tobacco all too well and has been campaigning for the Government to do more to help stub out smoking.

Her dad Kenneth Jones once welcomed Hollywood greats to the area when he worked as a doorman at Stockton’s famous Fiesta nightclub, one of the hottest cabaret clubs in the country in the 1960s. The biggest names from around the world including Shirley Bassey, Glen Campbell and the Four Tops, all cross paths with Kenneth.

But while mixing with the Hollywood greats, Karen said: “Smoking was part of the glamourous life and my dad smoked all the time. There wasn’t a picture without him and a cigarette.

The Northern Echo: Kenneth JonesKenneth Jones (Image: CANCER RESEARCH)

“He started smoking as a young boy and right until he died at just 61 years old. He was born in 1938 and he was part of the generation where everyone smoked and he would even tell me about how it was prescribed as a cure for ailments.”

The impact of tobacco had a devastating impact and Kenneth was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer in 2001 and he died just 10 days later.

Karen, who is a Civil Servant, added: “Smoking is a deadly addiction and, like my dad, most people who smoke started when they were young and have tried to quit.*

"I wholeheartedly back raising the age of sale of tobacco to prevent the younger generation from accessing tobacco products is incredible.

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“I trained as a nurse many years ago, and at the time smoking was allowed on wards in hospitals which seems ludicrous looking back. But we live in a different time now where tobacco should have no place in anyone’s future.

“The upcoming vote is a critical milestone towards ending the devastating effects of smoking. Victory is almost in sight, but for the sake of our children’s and grandchildren’s future, we cannot leave it to chance. Now, we must do everything we can to make sure MPs get this over the line.”

Karen is calling on the public to email their MP and encourage them to vote in favour of the legislation at cruk.org/SmokefreeGeneration.