More people have taken up smoking in Oxford over the past year, figures suggest, though the proportion of smokers is lower than the UK average.

Campaign group Action on Smoking and Health says smoking remains the leading cause of premature death in the UK, and that there is a long way to go before the country is truly smoke-free.

The Office for National Statistics estimates 13.5per cent of adults in Oxford smoked in 2019.

This was an increase on the year before, when 8.3per cent of those aged 18 and over smoked.

It was a different picture across the rest of the UK, where the proportion of smokers has fallen every year since 2011, reaching a record low of 14.1per cent in 2019.

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Across England, the rate now stands at 13.9per cent – the lowest of all four countries in the UK.

But anti-smoking charity ASH said there are 'enormous differences' across the country when it comes to smoking habits.

In Corby, in the East Midlands, 27.5per cent of adults were smokers in 2019, compared to just 3.4per cent in Hart, in the South East.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “The year-on-year decline in the proportion of people smoking has continued so only one in seven people now smoke, the lowest ever recorded.

"But that means there are 6.9 million smokers, and smoking remains the leading cause of premature death in the UK killing nearly 100,000 people a year, with 30 times as many living with serious smoking-related diseases.

"We’ve still got a long way to go before this country is truly smoke-free.”

The ONS estimates a further 28.9per cent of adults have quit smoking in Oxford, with the remaining 57.6per cent saying they had never done so.

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Women were more likely to smoke than men – 16.2per cent of females were smokers, compared to 10.7per cent of males.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said England's smoking rate of 13.9per cent is one of the best in Europe, but is still short of the Government's 2017 Tobacco control plan of 12per cent or less.

She added: "The UK is recognised internationally for its tough regulatory approach on tobacco control and reducing smoking harms.

“However, we are not complacent and our ambition is for England to become a smoke-free society by 2030.”

In May this year, a plan to make Oxfordshire the first 'smoke free' county in England was signed off.

The Oxfordshire Tobacco Strategy aims to reduce the prevalence of smoking in the county down from 10 per cent to five per cent by 2025.

As defined by the government, this would make Oxfordshire ‘smoke free’ because it would be so rare to see someone with a cigarette in hand.

In Oxfordshire, 2,132 people died from smoking related causes between 2015 and 2017.

The government’s own target is to make the whole of England smoke free in the next 10 years, by 2030.