A smoking ban for outdoor hospitality is being considered by officials in Oxfordshire, in a move designed to encourage people to quit.
The plans would see employers encouraged to promote smoke-free environments and support staff to quit smoking.
Local NHS trusts would be smoke-free, while encouraging smokers using, visiting or working in the NHS to quit.
If implemented, it would see Oxfordshire as the first county in England to be "smoke-free" by 2025.
"Smoke-free" is officially recognised by the government when 5% of the population or less are smokers.
The Oxfordshire Tobacco Control Strategy would see the county council collaborate with other local authorities and the NHS to sign the Local Government Tobacco declaration and the NHS Smokefree Pledge as a commitment to the reduction in the use of tobacco.
In addition, the proposal would also see the local authority tackle the supply and demand of illicit tobacco, raise public awareness, support regional programmes to reduce illegal tobacco and take action to reduce the sale of tobacco-related products and electronic cigarettes to those who are underage.
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A report by Dr Adam Briggs, the public-health official leading the strategy, found smoking was the leading cause of preventable deaths in Oxfordshire, costing £120m to the public purse each year.
While 12% of Oxfordshire’s population currently smoke, people earning lower incomes, those with mental illnesses, the homeless and travellers, all have a higher rate of smoking.
Last year, data from the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), found 2,132 people died from smoking-related causes in Oxfordshire between 2012 and 2017.
However, campaigners have criticised the plans.
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.”
With more businesses in the hospitality industry set to open up in the coming weeks following a planned lifting of lockdown, Clark said the public “will want local authorities to help local businesses bounce back from the impact of the pandemic”.
He added: “Reducing smoking rates to meet some idealistic target is not a priority for most people and council policy should reflect that.”
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