Oxfordshire is set to become the first county in England to ban smoking outdoors as the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown comes to an end.
The county, which has unveiled proposals to be the first region in the country to go smoke-free by the year 2025, will crack down on smoking later this month, with outside dining areas and workplace break spots as the top spots to go smoke-free.
The embargo, which has been described as a long game to change smoking habits, strives to prevent mortality from disease connected to tobacco.
The priorities for the country’s smoking strategy this year include creating more places where people feel enabled not to smoke.
This would include encouraging employers to stop the habit outside offices and factories, or by creating smoke-free spaces in newly created pavement dining areas.
Oxfordshire’s public health director, Ansaf Azhar last week said the move aimed to create an environment in which no smoking is encouraged, and he said it’s not about telling people not to smoke. It’s about moving and creating an environment in which no smoking is encouraged and they’re empowered to do so, but that it wasn’t going to happen overnight.
Dr Adam Briggs, the public health official driving the strategy, added that they’ve got a condition that’s entirely a commercially driven cause of mortality and morbidity, and that it’s impossible to be on the wrong side of history with tobacco consumption.
He also pointed to figures given by the chief medical officer Chris Whitty at a recent conference, who said more than 90,000 people died from tobacco-related illnesses in 2020, compared with 75,000 from COVID.
A report by Dr Adam Briggs said smoking was the leading cause of preventable mortality in Oxfordshire, costing £120 million to the public pocket each year.
While 12 per cent of Oxfordshire’s population currently smoke, people earning lower incomes, those with mental illness, the displaced and travellers, all have a higher percentage of smoking.
Andrew McHugh, a member of the health improvement partnership board, said he’d asked Cherwell District Council, where he’s a councillor, to make all new pavement licenses smoke free.
Pavement licenses allow eateries and bars to put tables and chairs outside their premises.
The council rejected the application, saying that the easing of coronavirus restrictions was not the time to impose more rules on trade, and now they’re taking away a person’s choice as to whether or not they want to smoke, and our freedoms are gradually being worn away.
And will this also apply to drink drivers? Because we don’t want to worry that some fool is driving under the influence. And yes, walking past a smoker might be a slight nuisance, but someone running you over or crashing into you because someone believed it was a great idea to get behind a wheel drunk, and could also be a life-changing situation.
I wonder if Oxfordshire is planning on outlawing alcohol, and would that be okay with everyone, or is it a case that if it doesn’t harm someone else, then they don’t care – until it does! And this is the thin end of a wedge ending in a police state.
Smoking is a personal preference, and it’s not for the nanny state to determine, and if establishments provided comfortable, well-ventilated spaces for smokers to sit, it wouldn’t be a dilemma. And in a society like ours, everyone has a reasonable expectation to be accommodated, and everyone is a taxpayer, so have the right to be accommodated.