Harry Wearing
By Harry Wearing

Senior Staff Writer

10 June 2019

| | 4 min read


“Keep trying to quit - you don’t want to hear the word ‘cancer’ diagnosed.”

A FORMER smoker who was diagnosed with cancer aged just 47 is urging smokers to never give up on quitting for the launch of a new campaign.

Fresh 16 cancers campaign
Fresh 16 cancers campaign

Sue Mountain, from South Tyneside, underwent laser treatment in 2012 after a biopsy revealed she had throat cancer.  The cancer returned in 2014 which required radiotherapy every day for four weeks.

With smoking causing 14.7% of cancer cases and 27% of all cancer deaths in England, it is estimated that smoking causes 44,100 new cases of cancer and over 36,600 deaths from cancer a year. For the North East, that means smoking cause over 2300 new cases of cancer a year and over 2000 deaths from cancer every year.

Sue’s warning how smoking affected not just on health but her job, finances and family comes as the 16 Cancers campaign* launches across the North East with regional TV advertising from North of England Cancer Alliances and with Fresh running a campaign on buses, radio and press advertising in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham. Smokers can visit Quit16.co.uk to find tips to quit and details of local support.

Sue said: “I started smoking when I was eleven to fit in - as a kid you don’t realise how addictive it is. I was addicted. I needed that nicotine craving.

“When I look back at what I have spent on cigarettes, it must have been £50,000 at least. It could have bought me half a house, instead of cancer.

“I don’t think I could go back to my job as a lecturer now because my voice is still very hoarse after the radiotherapy. But it’s my family it has affected. It was hard seeing my three daughters worry – it feels like they were punished because of me smoking. My grandson worries.  And now once you’ve had cancer, you worry every day and think: “is it going to come back?” So I wish I had never smoked.

“I tried a million times and the only advice I can say is keep trying, it’s worth it 100%.  I never ever thought all those times I quit and failed that I would get to this point in my life. But you’ve got to keep trying. You don’t want to hear the word ‘cancer’ diagnosed.”

What we are worried about is the other compounds that are in cigarettes - may of those are extremely dangerous to health. 

Fresh 16 Cancers - Prof Eugene Milne

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: “Whether you smoke roll ups or cigarettes, smoking causes 16 cancers as tobacco pumps poisons around the body. It’s not just the lungs but the mouth, throat, liver, bowel and bladder.

“Sue is incredibly brave to share her story to try to stop this happening to other people. There are now more options to quit than ever before, including vaping as a much less harmful alternative. And if you try at least once a year, you increase your chances of successfully quitting sooner.”

Councillor Kim McGuinness, cabinet member for culture, sport and public health at Newcastle City Council said:

“Many smokers are aware of the negative impact that smoking will have on their health, however this campaign highlights all the risks associated with cigarettes and the 16 different types of life changing cancers it can cause.

“It is important that smokers understand the dangers associated with the toxins they are breathing into their body every time they smoke, Newcastle City Council support these types of campaign as they bring this information and knowledge into the mainstream.

“Newcastle City Council works closely with our health partners to provide a variety of options to help people quit, including one-to-one sessions, prescribed medication and peer to peer support. There is something for everyone and I would urge anyone that is looking to quit to look at their options.“

Prof Eugene Milne, lead North East Director of Public Health for Tobacco (DPH), and Newcastle DPH, said: “You would be hard pressed to find any family in the North East that doesn’t have one family member who has been affected by smoking. Historically we have higher rates of smoking and even though rates have nearly halved since 2005, smoking still causes over 5000 deaths a year.

"Local authorities are committed to taking action to reduce smoking rates further and campaigns like this have been pivotal in helping smokers to stop and to stay stopped.

“Quitting is the single most effective thing you can do to reduce the risk of cancer, COPD and heart disease, and if you’re not ready to quit, switching to vaping can significantly help.”

Dr Tony Branson, a Consultant Clinical Oncologist and cancer alliance lead, said: “Although treatment for many cancers has improved enormously, many patients find it hard to speak clearly, swallow, eat or function normally again.

 “Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health and it is crucial to stop for good as soon as possible.”

North East smoking rates have fallen by 44% since 2005 when 29% of North East adults smoked down to 16.2% of people in 2017 – around a quarter of a million fewer people smoking.  

Besides lung cancer, smoking also causes cancers of the mouth, nasal cavities, pharynx and larynx, stomach, kidney, bowel, liver, pancreas, cervix, bladder and ovaries, oesophagus and ureter, as well as myeloid leukaemia. There is also some evidence that smoking could cause breast cancer.


Many smokers are aware of the negative impact that smoking will have on their health, however this campaign highlights all the risks associated with cigarettes and the 16 different types of life changing cancers it can cause.

Councillor Kim McGuinness

Cabinet member for culture, sport and public health