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Is England Going Smoke Free?

English councils start banning smoking outside pubs and restaurants.

Five local authorities have already banned smoking in pavement pubs, cafes and restaurants, and others are considering following suit, before a new push by the government to make England smoke-free in less than a decade.

The Covid outdoor eating culture has given the issue of smokers outside pubs and cafes a new visibility. Last summer saw an attempt to push through an amendment to legislation in the House of Lords to make pavements smoke-free, but it failed.

However, Northumberland county council, Durham, North Tyneside, Newcastle, and the City of Manchester have all banned smoking on stretches of the pavement where bars, restaurants and cafes are licensed to put out tables.

Oxfordshire is also planning to ban smoking from outdoor restaurants as part of a major strategy that aims to make the county smoke-free by 2025, five years ahead of the government’s plan for England as a whole.

“Oxfordshire has set itself an ambitious aim to be smoke-free by 2025,” said a statement from the council. “Creating healthy smoke-free environments, including considering proposals for hospitality outdoor seating to be 100 percent smoke-free, is just one small part of a wider range of county-wide plans."

Pro-smoking groups say local authorities such as Oxfordshire should not interfere. This is no doubt balanced by people who want to quit, and need the extra push.

The interest in smoke-free pavements coincides with the publication of the latest tobacco control plan by the government, which will be debated in parliament today. Campaigners hope for tough new measures to control smoking and help people quit.

England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, has warned that the impact of tobacco is worse than Covid. Smoking had probably killed more people than Covid in the same period, he said. Generally tobacco is estimated to kill 90,000 people a year in the UK.

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