NHS doctor on the dangers of smoking

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Oxfordshire’s smoke-free plans will begin by targeting outdoor dining areas and workplace break spots. The crackdown will begin as lockdown ends, but plans have been underway since before the pandemic began. Part of the county’s strategy is to crate more spaces where people feel ‘empowered’ not to smoke.

Employers would be encouraged to stop the habit outside offices and factories or to create smoke-free areas in newly created pavement dining areas.

Oxfordshire’s public health director, Ansaf Azhar said the plans aim to “create an enivornemnt in which not smoking is encouraged”.

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.”

Dr Briggs also referred to figures given by the chief medical officer Chris Whitty at a recent conference, which revealed more than 90,000 people died from tobacco related diseases in 2020, compared with 75,000 from COVID-19.

A report by Dr briggs said smoking was the leading cause of preventable deaths in Oxfordshire, costing £120m to the public purse each year.

While 12 per cent 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.

Andrew McHugh, a member of the health improvement partnership board, said he had asked Cherwell District Council, where he is a councillor, to make all new pavement licenses smoke-free.

Pavement licenses allow restaurants and bars to place tables and chairs outside their premises.

The council denied the request saying the easing of coronavirus restrictions was not the time to impose more rules on businesses.

Bur Dr Briggs asked members of the board, who sit on different councils around Oxfordshire, to make similar requests in the near future.

A pro-smoking campaign group called The Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest) has 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.”

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