SMOKERS in East Lancashire are set to be given a helping hand to kick the habit in a bid to cut the number of tobacco related deaths each year.

A series of new initiatives is being launched by Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale's Primary Care Trust's Stop Smoking Service.

It comes as it was revealed that nearly 15,000 people died in the North West in 2002 because of smoking.

Lunchtime and teatime 'drop-in' sessions have been organised in Haslingden, Burnley, Harle Syke, Nelson, Colne, Rawtenstall, Waterfoot and Bacup as well as a new group session in Barnoldswick.

According to research released by the Tobacco Control Research Bulletin, East Lancashire has the highest number of women smokers in England.

Christine Donnelly, the PCT's Stop Smoking co-ordinator, said: "We are trialing these lunchtime and teatime sessions to offer people easy and convenient access to our service. We hope to help people to quit smoking, improve their health, and save a lot of needless expenditure during the run-up to Christmas."

The latest figures revealed one in five deaths in the region were put down to smoking. It also revealed there are an estimated 1.5 million adult smokers in the region, with the North West having the highest rate of smoking-related deaths than any other English region.

Christine, whose team's success last year helped the area's PCT achieve top three-star status, is determined to help as many people beat the deadly habit this year.

Nearly 1,500 people were helped to quit smoking in the Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale area.

This year, Christine has an even more ambitious target, and added: "The more people get off smoking, the better the lifestyle for everyone, including their families, children and non-smokers alike.

"Topics we discuss are addiction, withdrawal symptoms and how to deal with them, relapse prevention, stress management, weight management and the patients can look at and try out the products.

"We also test carbon monoxide levels with a monitor."

For locations and times of sessions throughout Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale contact the Stop Smoking Service 01282 607002.