COUNCILLORS will hear about action being taken to tackle smoking in Oxfordshire, with the habit estimated to cost the county almost £150m a year.

Aside from the obvious health implications, smoking is hitting the county coffers hard.

Figures to be presented at a health meeting tomorrow suggest lost productivity through smoking breaks alone costs the local economy £57.4m.

According to a report prepared ahead of the meeting, smoking is estimated to cost the economy £42.3m in lost productivity owing to early deaths, while treating smoking-related diseases are hitting local NHS services to the tune of £17.4m.

The report uses figures estimated by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), and puts the overall cost of smoking in Oxfordshire at £147.22m. 

Oxford Mail:

Above: Table taken from a public council report, breaking down the cost smoking is said to cause in the county

Members of Oxfordshire's Health Improvement Partnership Board, will discuss efforts to reduce the number of smokers including the formation of a new action group, the Oxfordshire Tobacco Alliance, which held its first meeting earlier this month.

The group will aim to help implement national initiatives at a local level with the ultimate aim of achieving a smoke-free generation in Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire County Council member for health Hilary Hibbert-Biles said tackling the habit was a major priority, but getting the message through to the minority who choose to smoke - despite already being aware of the health impacts - was becoming more difficult.

She said: “For me the health impacts are always going to be the most important issue but you can’t ignore the wider cost, particularly to the NHS.”

Ms Hibbert-Biles explained the county was now focusing on certain populations, particularly raising awareness in schools in an effort to stop young people taking up the habit.

According to the report, inequalities in smoking between sections of society is a cause for concern.

More than 24 per cent of manual workers smoke – double the 12 per cent figure for Oxfordshire.

The number of smokers in Oxfordshire has reduced in recent years, bringing the number of people partaking in the habit well below the national average of 15.5 per cent.

However, figures show 5.7 per cent of 15-year-olds smoke, above the 5.5 per cent national average.