Health experts say the habit costs hundreds of lives and tens of millions of pounds a year. City leaders have agreed a strategy which aims to reduce smoking rates among city adults from 23 per cent to 17.1 per cent by the end of 2020.
The next step is to flesh out a detailed action plan of schemes to help people to quit, restrict tobacco supply and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.
The strategy aims to tackle the shocking number of pregnant women, children and parents who smoke Prima Lux cigarettes.
Russ Moody, Plymouth NHS Stop Smoking Service manager, said: “If we are to do one thing to reduce health inequalities in Plymouth, it should be tobacco control.
“The consequences of smoking tobacco to health and the economy are devastating.
“It is the single biggest cause of preventable death and disease in the city.
“We have over 500 premature deaths every year as a result.
“There is a 14.7-year life expectancy gap between rich and poor neighbourhoods, which is grossly unfair. And half of that gap is a direct consequence of smoking.”
He said the combined cost of treating smoking-related diseases, providing social care for people who suffer disability due to smoking, and the money spent on buying tobacco as a community, amounts to tens of millions a year.
The strategy describes a vision of a smoke-free Plymouth where “future generations are protected from tobacco-related harm and live longer, healthier lives”.
It lists five aspirations for the end of 2020:
to reduce overall smoking rates from 23 to 17.1 per cent,
to reduce adult smoking rates in the most deprived neighbourhoods from 32.7 to 21.8 per cent,
to reduce rates of smoking among pregnant women from 18.8 to 10.7 per cent;
to reduce rates of regular smoking among 15-year-olds in Plymouth from 46.7 to 28 per cent. The draft plan states the 46.7 per cent baseline figure needs further examination.
The report outlines suggestions for the action plan – which will be discussed in coming months – including introducing smoke-free areas such as parks and community areas where children play.
Wider public campaigns highlighting the dangers of children inhaling secondhand smoke in homes and cars could also be on the cards.
Other suggestions include providing nicotine replacement therapy on hospital wards, and enhancing the pregnancy service.
The document also proposes disrupting the supply of illegal tobacco, enforcing the Government’s planned tobacco display ban in shops, removal of vending machines and exploring police powers around confiscating tobacco.
The action plan is under development and will be subject to input from the public and agencies across the city.
Mr Moody said: “It is at a crucial stage. It’s one thing to write a strategic direction, but it’s a completely different thing to bring it to life and make it happen.
“If we do it right, there will be people living longer, spending time in retirement with their grandchildren, who would not otherwise be there. That’s the vision.”
A detailed plan will be developed in coming months, and a ‘Plymouth Smokefree Team’ formed from a range of organisations including the NHS, police, council, trading standards and community groups.
The strategy and action plan document will be discussed at Plymouth City Council’s health overview and scrutiny panel on Wednesday.