A STRATEGY which hopes to make Oxfordshire the first 'smoke-free' county in England by 2025 is aiming to discourage workplace smoking areas.

Plans for how to 'deliver a smoke free Oxfordshire' are being considered later this week, a year after the strategy was first launched.

One of the key aims for the strategy this year is to prevent more people from smoking cigarettes.

One of the ways Oxfordshire public health officials plan to do this is to 'support the implementation of smokefree indoor and outdoor places', including workplaces.

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A report by Dr Adam Briggs, a Consultant in Public Health for Oxfordshire County Council, said smoking is the 'leading preventable cause of premature death and disease from conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease' in Oxfordshire.

This in turn results in more £120m costs to the public purse each year because of 'lost productivity, health care, and social care' for people who have illnesses caused by smoking.

Approximately 65,000 adults or 12 per cent of the local population, are smokers according to the latest data from 2019.

The report, due to be discussed by Oxfordshire's Health Improvement Partnership Board on Thursday, sets out progress in a 'four pillared' approach to reducing the number of smokers in the county which was first agreed in February 2020.

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The four pillars include: prevention, local regulation and enforcement of counterfeit tobacco, creating 'smoke-free environments', and helping smokers to quit.

On smoking prevention, the public health team has found there are inequalities in who smokes the most of Oxfordshire.

While the overall prevalence is 12 per cent in the county, it is 22.5 per cent among people in jobs that involve routine work or manual labour.

It is also high among people with mental health conditions, at 17.4 per cent.

The report also said ' marginalised groups' like the homeless and travellers tend to smoke more than others.

But the public health team has found that people are more likely to give up smoking due to help from family and friends, rather than by taking up help from services provided to help them quit.

Oxfordshire's public health team plans mainly to focus its efforts on prevention among these different groups. as well as 'creating healthy smoke free environments' over the next year.

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It will still be providing its current smoking 'cessation service'.

There is thought to be a link between the likelihood of becoming severely ill with Covid-19 and smoking.

The British Heart Foundation's fact file on smoking and Covid said very few studies have been done into the field.

However, the World Health Organisation last year said: "Covid-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases."

Oxfordshire's Health Improvement Partnership Board meeting on Thursday will be the first of its kind under the newly elected county council coalition administration.