A SMOKER has been fined £80 – for dropping a matchstick.

Demetrios Samouris was hit with the fine by an Oxford City Council street warden while he was shopping with his girlfriend in Cornmarket Street.

Last night, the council said it was the first time it had fined somebody for dropping a matchstick.

The 22-year-old fell victim to the council’s ‘zero tolerance’ crackdown on clearing up Oxford’s litter-strewn streets.

Police Community Support Officers, street wardens and enforcement officers are blitzing the city centre as part of Cleaner Greener Oxford, launched by the city council and Oxford Mail last week.

Mr Samouris described the fine as “harsh”, but he said he understood why tickets were being issued to litterbugs.

He said: “It is a bit irritating because £80 is a lot of money. Even though it drops to £55 if I pay it within 14 days, I can’t really afford it.

“It’s quite harsh.

“It was only a match. I try not to drop cigarettes and would never leave other rubbish on the street.

“But I can’t really be that angry.

“I do understand what they are doing and I guess all rubbish has to be treated equally, whether it’s a matchstick or sandwich wrapper.”

Eleven penalty notices were handed out by street wardens on Thursday.

Graham Eagle, the city council’s public health team leader, said he was delighted with how efforts to spruce up the city were going.

He said: “From our point of view it is all about changing attitudes.

“As well as targeting people dropping litter, this campaign is also an appeal to everybody to play their part.

“We are trying to instil pride in the city. We are all working together and each of us needs to take personal responsibility to bin litter.”

Environmental enforcement officer Natalie Hughes is used to targeting offenders. She was a police officer in her native Australia before moving to Oxford.

She briefed the team ahead of the patrols at the city council’s offices in Ramsay House, in St Ebbe’s Street.

Ms Hughes said: “We are going for absolutely zero tolerance as we attempt to decrease the incidents of littering.

“We have had various initiatives in areas like Cornmarket, with a number of new bins being installed, but the message has not got through to some people.

“We need to change attitudes.

“People aren’t trying to deceive us in many cases.

“They just don’t think what they are doing is wrong. That is exactly what we are trying to address.”

Street warden Betty Workman, who patrols the streets of Rose Hill and Littlemore, has been drafted into the city centre as part of the campaign.

She said: “I don’t understand some people’s mentality when they just drop litter. Sometimes it easier to put the rubbish in a bin, yet it still ends up on the street.”

City council chief executive Peter Sloman said: “We are committed to creating a cleaner greener city and this campaign is not a one-off.”