A world expert on tobacco control has arrived on Tyneside to support attempts to help the region go smoke-free.
Tobacco Expert Professor Stanton Glantz wants a smoking ban
Health experts want to ban smoking in bars and restaurants after new figures revealed 200 people die every year from the effects of passive smoking.
Professor Stanton Glantz is credited with introducing the first smoking bans in public places in California.
He has been invited to visit bars in the region and help persuade smokers that a ban is the way forward.
Prof Glantz, who is based at the University of California, said: "When the laws changed in California, business was not affected in bars and restaurants in the short-term and in the long-term it got better.
"The people of the North East have done their homework, they know the research and they want to make smoke-free environments.
"So the real question is, is the national government going to get out of the way and let them do it or keep protecting the interests of the tobacco companies rather than the people who live here."
Regional director of public health for the North East, Dr Bill Kirkup, said: "We welcome the proposals for restrictions on smoking in public places in last month's government White Paper.
"They are potentially the most important development in public health since the link between smoking and lung cancer was established in the 1950s.
"But we also need to remember that smoking kills more than 15 people in the North East every day."