SMOKERS caught dropping cigarette butts in a Yorkshire borough will be given the option of going on a course to help them quit rather than pay an £80 fine.
In the first scheme of its kind, Calderdale Council will work with NHS services to encourage litterbugs to give up smoking.
If implemented, the council expects hundreds to sign up to smoking cessation courses rather than pay a fine.
A carbon monoxide measurement by the Calderdale Specialist NHS Stop Smoking Service will be administered to ensure smokers have kicked the habit before fines are waived.
If they fail to stop smoking, fines will be pursued and could result in a prosecution at court. People caught smoking in smoke-free public premises may also be eligible for the courses.
Over 3,200 people in Calderdale have been hit by fines for dropping smoking-related litter since 2002. The authority spends around £1.5m a year clearing up smoking-related litter.
A council spokesman said: “This innovative approach seeks to both improve and tackle health inequalities whilst importantly reducing the amount of smoking-related litter in the borough, and fundamentally relieve some of the significant burden on the local and national health services.”
There are currently around 38,000 smokers in Calderdale, higher than the national average.
To date, the council has asked 24 smokers for their views on the scheme. All but one supported it. Councillors will discuss the proposals next Monday.
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said: “It sounds like they’re picking on smokers because they’re an easy target.”