Public health officials in Oxfordshire have said the county is proudly working towards becoming an entirely smoke-free zone, with plans to ban smoking outdoors by 2025. If successful it will become the first place in England to do so. That means no cheeky cigs in pub gardens, outside nightclubs (remember those? Sob), or outside the office.
Oxfordshire's public health director, Ansaf Azhar said of the bold move, "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."
In order for the county to be officially recognised as smoke-free by the Government, it must meet a quota wherein 5% or less of the population are active smokers. Currently, the Oxford Mail reports that 12% of Oxford's population smoke.
An Oxfordshire County Council spokeswoman has also commented on the decision saying, "Oxfordshire has set itself an ambitious aim to be smoke-free by 2025. Creating healthy, smoke-free environments – including considering proposals for hospitality outdoor seating to be 100% smoke-free – is just one small part of a wider range of county-wide plans.
"At present there are no timeframes for smoke-free pavement licensing proposals and nothing has yet been agreed. Any decision on this would be ultimately the responsibility of our individual district councils in Oxfordshire."
In general, it's estimated that around 7 million people identified as smokers in the UK in 2019, with more recent stats indicting that over a million people have ditched the habit since the coronavirus pandemic hit.
One theory for this drop in numbers could be due to doctors warning that smokers could be more at risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms, although of course that's just one of many health implications that puffing away on a Cigourney Weaver can have...
The NHS states that smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK, with around 78,000 people in the UK dying from a smoking-related illness every year. Not only that, but smoking also increases a person's risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions, such as having a stroke, developing particular cancers and having a heart attack.
Passive smoking (breathing in secondhand smoke from others) also increases the risk factor of getting the same health conditions as smokers, meaning Oxfordshire's plans will hopefully not just benefit the cig lovers themselves, but those around them too. The NHS gives the example that a person who co-habits with a partner who smokes, but doesn't smoke personally, would still have around a 25% higher risk of going on to develop lung cancer.
Gulp. Anyone fancy a smoke-free trip to Oxfordshire then?
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