The nationwide ban on menthol flavoured cigarettes and tobacco has been hailed as another important step in the fight to stamp out the habit.
Health chiefs say the ban - which came into force earlier this month (May 20) - will help prevent children taking up smoking.
New figures show more than 300 11- to 15-year-olds take up smoking every year in Middlesbrough, with menthol cigarettes known to be a popular starter product.
The flavoured tobacco makes it easier to smoke and inhale deep into the lungs, and menthol smokers are also more likely to become heavily addicted and find it harder to quit.
The menthol ban is the latest step in a Government tobacco control strategy designed to reduce youth uptake and to encourage and support quitting among smokers.
The Government's ambition is for England to be smoke-free by 2030.
Research on menthol cigarettes shows:
- Menthol cigarette use is significantly more common among newer, younger smokers
- There is greater risk of progression to regular smoking and nicotine dependence for those who start smoking menthol cigarettes compared with those starting with non-menthol cigarettes
- Initiating smoking with menthol cigarettes was associated with higher levels of nicotine dependence
- The availability of menthol cigarettes increases the likelihood of experimentation and regular smoking
- The average number of cigarettes smoked by menthol smokers was greater than non-menthol smokers in adolescents
- Some youths smoke menthol products because they perceive them to be less harmful than non-menthol cigarettes.
Councillor Dorothy Davison, Middlesbrough Council's Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health and Chair of the South Tees Smoke Free Action Alliance, said: "The flavoured taste of menthol cigarettes makes them attractive to children, so this ban is a welcome step in the right direction.
"For decades they've made it easier for children to start smoking and harder for them to quit.
"The evidence is clear that two thirds of the hundreds of children who start smoking in Middlesbrough every year will go on to become daily smokers.
"The younger a person starts smoking the more likely they are to die prematurely of a smoking related illness.
"It's therefore better to not start smoking in the first place than to have to quit, which can take as many as 30 attempts, and moves like this can only help.
"Many of those who experiment will become lifelong smokers, suffering serious smoking-related diseases and premature death."
Children whose parents smoke are nearly three times as likely to become smokers themselves, highlighting the importance of doing more to help adults quit.
Middlesbrough Council is also supporting the Quit for Covid campaign - #QuitforCovid - to encourage smokers to quit during the Covid-19 pandemic, with emerging evidence showing that smoking increases the risks of developing life threatening complications from the virus.
Mark Adams, Joint Director of Public Health for South Tees, said: "The evidence is clear that smoking increases the risk of respiratory infections, weakens the immune system and is a major cause of a number of chronic health conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and diabetes.
"There are so many reasons to quit smoking but never a more important time than right now during the coronavirus pandemic."