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Strategy to make Suffolk “smoke free” set to be launched, leading to renewed calls for county council to disinvest from tobacco firms

PUBLISHED: 10:10 08 January 2015 | UPDATED: 10:10 08 January 2015

Public health body to launch strategy aimed at gettting Suffolk

Public health body to launch strategy aimed at gettting Suffolk "smoke free"

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Public health officials at Suffolk County Council are set to launch a new strategy aimed at making Suffolk “smoke free” – despite the authority still investing millions of pounds in tobacco firms.

Latest figures estimate smoking-related illnesses cause more than 1,100 deaths in Suffolk and a number of recommendations to bring down the number of smokers in the county have been laid out in a report to the county’s health and wellbeing board.

This includes developing smoking prevention programmes for schools and youth organisations.

The document has been welcomed, but has also led to renewed calls for the council to cease investing pension fund money in tobacco firms, an issue which has raged since the authority took on public health duties in 2013.

Sandy Martin, Labour group leader at the council, said he would welcome a campaign to help people stop smoking.

On the issue of the pension fund investment, he added: “We have made it perfectly clear what we think about the county council investing (the pension fund) in tobacco and the majority of the rest of the county council have agreed with us.

“There is a process that needs to be gone through (to end the investment) but if the county council has failed to sort this out within a fairly short period of time, I think people will begin to question it and if they are committed to making it happen.”

Last year the council, which as of November had £40million invested in the industry, voted to disinvest if an alternative could be found. A final decision is due to be made in February.

A council spokesman added: “The Pensions Committee has instructed officers to investigate the legal position surrounding tobacco disinvestment, a report will go to the next committee meeting.”

The smoke-free strategy itself aims to dramatically drive down the number of smokers in the county.

It is focusing on creating environments where people choose not to smoke, protecting people from second-hand smoke and enabling people to quit.

Recommendations to achieve the goal include developing smoking prevention programmes and focusing on underage sales.

Addressing the figures over smoking-related deaths and ill health in Suffolk, Alan Murray, county council cabinet member for health and adult care, said: “This makes reducing tobacco consumption a priority for Suffolk’s Health and Wellbeing Board, which is why we are discussing possible recommendations next week, to adopt a range of measures to take action and seek commitment from all partners to cut smoking in every home and business.

“Our principal aim is to prevent young people from getting started in the first place and we have set a vision for a tobacco-free generation.”

Campaigners have welcomed the county council’s new strategy to reduce the number of people smoking in Suffolk, which currently stands at about one in five people in the county.

The report suggests there needs to be a change in the county’s approach to tobacco.

Officials say a successful strategy will help protect children and young people from harm and improving healthy life expectancy.

Amanda Sandford, information manager at Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), described the tobacco plan as “very encouraging”.

She added: “Smoking places a huge financial and health burden on local communities so if this plan is implemented it will not only lead to a healthier population but will also result in considerable cost savings for the council and the local population.”

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