COUNCIL chiefs have hailed a staggering fall in the number of smokers across Worcestershire - and have set their sights on bringing it down further.

Councillor Marcus Hart, the cabinet member for health, says the county should be proud of its record since the turn of the century.

The Conservative says 17.7 per cent of people in Worcestershire smoke at the moment - and back in 2002 it stood at 33 per cent.

He is now hanging future success on seeing it fall further, and believes despite budget pressures County Hall still has a key role to play.

"The council and its partners have recently agreed a tobacco control plan which aims to motivate and help young people to stop," he said.

"The figures do vary across Worcestershire but the most recent data I have shows that 17.7 per cent of adults smoke, compared to 19 per cent in England (as a whole).

"Over the past 10 years it's fallen steadily, smoking rates were 33 per cent in in Worcestershire 2002, that's a substantial drop over more than a decade."

Cllr Hart also says in some parts of the county where smoking is more prevalent, like the council ward of Warndon and Gorse Hill, 89 people have decided to kick the habit in the last year by accessing the stop smoking services.

Cllr Alan Amos, who represents that ward on the county council, said: "In low income areas the battle is not being won so easily."

The tobacco control plan, a national blueprint, calls for smoking rates of under 15s to be cut from 15 per cent to 12 per cent by 2015.

It also aims to slash pregnant smokers to 11 per cent, a fall of three per cent.

The county's current stop smoking service runs help clinics at various locations, including Worcestershire Royal Hospital and Evesham Community Hospital.

It is managed by the NHS, which says people who want to quit are four times more likely to do so after accessing the support.

To find out more about it call 0300 123 0619.