CITY employers are urged to help their staff bin the cigarettes as part of a mass quit attempt.
On October 1, smokers across Sunderland will be asked to stop smoking for almost a month as part of the Stoptober campaign.
The Public Health England-created idea is being supported by Fresh, Smoke Free North East.
This year, workplaces are being encouraged to spread the quit message and challenge workers to try the 28-day challenge.
Anti-smoking campaigners argue that as well as damaging people’s health, the North East economy suffers a hit of more than £32million each year caused by workplace absences by those who smoke.
Fresh says that more workers stopping smoking will result in a healthier and less stressed workforce.
Director Ailsa Rutter said: “This year we’re really trying to find some Stoptober champions among regional employers.
“Most smokers would like to be able to quit, but can’t always find the right time, or are worried they won’t be successful.
“Employers can make a massive difference in the health and well-being of staff if they support staff through this process. And quitting together as a group gives people an extra motive to keep going.”
The initiative is backed by the Northern TUC, through its Better Health at Work Award scheme, and also has the support of business leaders in the region. The North East has had the biggest decline in smoking of any region in England, down from 29 per cent in 2005 to 21 per cent, but is still one of the worst areas in the country for the numbers of people lighting up.
Tom Ross, from the Northern TUC, said: “Recent results on life expectancy in the North East are really worrying and anything that can be done to improve the health of our region has to be worthwhile.”
Ross Smith, director of policy at the North East Chamber of Commerce, added: “Lots of businesses will be supporting their staff to quit smoking and we would encourage all firms to look at what help they can offer.”
Public Health England is providing free promotional materials to support staff events. Email email@example.com or go to smokefree.nhs.uk.