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The coronavirus pandemic has seen a dramatic rise in outside dining due to safety concerns. However, this has led to tension between non-smokers and smokers, who are already banned from lighting up inside.
Five councils in the north of England have begun insisting on an outdoor smoking ban, as part of licencing conditions for restaurants and pubs.
These are Manchester City, Northumberland, Newcastle, Durham and North Tyneside.
North Oxfordshire is hoping to become “smoke-free” by 2025, and is considering a smoking ban for outside hospitality as part of the plans.
An area is deemed to be “smoke-free” when less than five percent of its population are smokers.
Five English councils have imposed an outdoor hospitality smoking ban
Coronavirus has increased the level of outdoor hospitality
The Government hopes to make England as a whole smoke-free by the end of 2030.
Scientists link smoking to a number of deadly diseases including cancer, heart disease, strokes, lung diseases and diabetes.
Defending their policy, a spokeswomen for Oxfordshire County Council said: “Oxfordshire has set itself an ambitious aim to be smoke-free by 2025.
“Creating healthy, smoke-free environments – including considering proposals for hospitality outdoor seating to be 100% smoke-free – is just one small part of a wider range of county-wide plans.
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Smoking was banned in pubs in 2007
“At present, there are no timeframes for smoke-free pavement licensing proposals and nothing has yet been agreed.
“Any decision on this would be ultimately the responsibility of our individual district councils in Oxfordshire.
“Our tobacco control strategy further outlines our smoke-free 2025 plans, which includes creating healthy and family-friendly smoke-free spaces, helping people stop smoking in the first place, and supporting those who wish to quit.”
However, the move has sparked outrage from smokers rights groups.
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“People complain that they have to sit among smokers”
Oxfordshire is hoping to become smoke-free by 2025
Simon Clark, who heads smoking lobby group Forest, commented: “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.
“The public will want local authorities to help local businesses bounce back from the impact of the pandemic.
“They will also be expected to focus on issues like employment and housing.
“Reducing smoking rates to meet some idealistic target is not a priority for most people and council policy should reflect that.”
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Smoking in England was banned for indoor hospitality and work places in 2007.
However, Deborah Arnott, who runs Ash (Action on Smoking and Health), argued more action is needed.
Speaking to The Guardian, she claimed two-thirds of the British public support a ban on smoking outside pubs and restaurants.
Pubs across the UK have been reopening after lockdown
Ms Arnott added: “It is not like this is not on anyone’s radar.
“People complain a lot that if they go outside, they have to sit among smokers.”
According to the Office for National Statistics 14.1 percent of the British population were smokers in 2019.