Oxfordshire plans to become the first 'smoke-free' county in England 

Oxfordshire is planning to become the first 'smoke-free' county in England as local health chiefs want to kick the habit by 2025.

Ansaf Azhar, the county council's director of public health, said the hope is nobody will be smoking cigarettes in Oxfordshire in five years' time.

A meeting of Oxfordshire's Health Improvement Partnership Board yesterday heard it would save a fortune on healthcare, workplace productivity, social care and even house fires.

According to data from the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), smoking costs the Oxfordshire economy a total of £121.7m each year.

Mr Azhar said the new plan, called the Oxfordshire Tobacco Control Strategy, represented a 'step change' in how smoking was treated in the county.

Ansaf Azhar, the county council's director of public health, said the hope is nobody will be smoking cigarettes in Oxfordshire in five years' time

Ansaf Azhar, the county council's director of public health, said the hope is nobody will be smoking cigarettes in Oxfordshire in five years' time

A report to the improvement board said the government had set a target to reduce the number of people smoking in the UK to five per cent of the population by 2030.

The board was told this would be considered a 'smoke free' society because smoking would be so rare.

The aim for Oxfordshire is to go further and become smoke free on the  same guidelines by 2025, becoming the first county in England to do so.

Approximately 10 per cent of the county's population smokes regularly at the moment, which equates to approximately 54,804 people, according to the report. 

Mr Azhar told the board there were deep inequalities in who was smoking in Oxfordshire, with the poorest communities hit the hardest by the health problems and the costs of the habit.

He said the new strategy had a 'four pillared' approach to reducing the number of smokers.

These were carrying on with existing prevention work, regulating and enforcing tobacco products, creating more smoke-free

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