Smoking outside to be banned in Oxfordshire as county bids to become smoke-free

Smoking outside will be banned completely in Oxfordshire as it targets becoming smoke free by 2025.

The drastic new law is a major part of the county's bid to crackdown on tobacco related deaths and diseases.

People will not be allowed to light a cigarette outside bars or restaurants to help those trying to kick the habit, feel 'empowered' not to smoke.

Anyone in Oxfordshire who takes routine breaks from work to smoke will also soon be unable to do so under the health-driven legislation.

Oxfordshire's public health director, Ansaf Azhar described the strategy last week as a "long game" to change smoking culture, The Sun reports.

He said: "It is not about telling people not to smoke. It is about moving and creating an environment in which not smoking is encouraged and they are empowered to do so.

"But that is not going to happen overnight."

Dr Adam Briggs, the public health official leading the strategy, added: "We have got a condition that is entirely a commercially driven cause of death and disease.

"It is impossible to be on the wrong side of history with tobacco consumption."

The UK's chief medical officer Chris Whitty said in a recent conference that over 90,000 people died from diseases linked to tobacco last year, a figure that dwarfs the 75,000 from coronavirus.

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Not only was smoking behind the most preventable deaths in Oxfordshire, it costs the public purse £120m each year, a report by Dr Briggs said.

Out of the entire population of the county, 12% are smokers but that percentage soars within lower earning demographics including those with mental illnesses, the homeless and travellers, according to The Sun.

Andrew McHugh who sits on the health improvement partnership board, and works as a councillor for Cherwell District Council, asked for all new pavement licenses to be made smoke-free.

This would stop restaurants and bars with access to expand the premises, allowing punters and diners to smoke at their table.

However the council shut down the request, so re-opening businesses were not hit with another potential set back following months of lockdowns and other coronavirus restrictions.

But Dr Briggs has since suggested to members of the board, to make similar requests to their various local councils in Oxfordshire, in the near future

Pro-smoking campaign group, The Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest) has hit back at the ban.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' lobby group Forest, said: "It's no business of local councils if adults choose to smoke, and if they smoke outside during working hours that's a matter for them and their employer not the council."

The Government officially recognises smoke-free status when fewer than 5% of the population classify themselves as smokers.

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