Oxfordshire to Become First English County to Ban Outdoor Smoking

smoking
Cheryl Holt/Public Domain Pictures

Oxfordshire is looking to become the first “smoke-free” county in England by the year 2025, with proposals to ban smoking in outdoor spaces.

The anti-smoker measures would bar people from smoking in outdoor dining areas and preventing businesses from providing workplace cigarette break areas.

The post-pandemic plan will look to make people feel “empowered” not to smoke, the local Oxford Mail newspaper reported. To be officially considered “smoke-free” by the British government, less than five per cent of a county can be smokers.

Approximately 12 per cent of the county’s population smokes cigarettes, with people on the lower end of the economic ladder more likely to light up; therefore, the impact of such restrictions will most likely disproportionately impact the working-class and poor.

The director of the smoking lobby group Forest, Simon Clark 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.”

In a post on social media, Forest added: “Reducing smoking rates to meet some idealistic target is not a priority for most people and council policy should reflect that.”

Oxfordshire’s public health director, Ansaf Azhar, said last week that the smoking restrictions are a part of the local government’s “long game” strategy to change the smoking culture.

“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,” Azhar said.

The public health official who has been spearheading the anti-smoker push, Dr Adam Briggs, said: “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 move has drawn considerable derision on social media, including from Reclaim Party leader Laurence Fox, who wrote: “I will campaign for people to feel empowered to smoke, drink, eat fast food, get really fat, buy massive chocolate bars whilst pretending it’s for sharing if they want to, and for it to be no one else’s sodding business.”

“I will criminalise yoga and mindfulness classes,” Fox joked.

Britain is no stranger to government restrictions on supposed vices, with the 2019 Nanny State Index listing the United Kingdom as the fourth least free country in the EU to eat, drink, and smoke.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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