Proposals to make Brighton beach smoke-free are "unnecessary" and "unjust", according to a smokers' group.

Plans to extend the current smoking ban in pubs, cafes and shopping centres to outdoor public areas will be discussed tomorrow by Brighton and Hove City Council as it meets to decide whether public consultation should go ahead.

If agreed, the consultation period will run from Wednesday for 12 weeks.

Brighton Council already has a voluntary ban on smoking in children's play areas, but now the city's parks and beaches could be smoke-free too - angering the smokers' group Forest.

Director Simon Clark said: "Smokers should smoke responsibly, with consideration for others around them, but extending the smoking ban to open spaces is unnecessary, unjust and another attack on individual freedom.

"There's no evidence that smoking in the open air is a risk to the health of anyone other than the smoker."

He added: "Nor is there evidence that the sight of a stranger lighting up encourages children to smoke.

"Tobacco is legal product. Smokers pay over £10 billion annually in tobacco taxation, a sum that far exceeds the alleged cost of treating smoking-related diseases.

"These persistent attacks on people's lifestyle, and the unfounded scaremongering about the risk to others, must stop."

But Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Ash (Action on Smoking and Health), said the move could be good for the environment as well as health.

"A growing number of local authorities and other organisations are exploring ways of providing more smoke-free public places in response to public demand. Football grounds and railway stations are already smoke-free, and increasingly children's play areas are going smoke-free too.

"Smoke-free beaches could provide a safe and pleasant environment, particularly for children, but also for adults who want to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke, as well as reducing the amount of cigarette butt litter on beaches, which doesn't degrade quickly and is harmful to wildlife."

A national smoking ban on workplaces and enclosed public areas was introduced in July 2007, and in October this year tobacco-smoking in cars carrying children will also be outlawed in England.

Smoking is the primary cause of premature death and preventable illness in the UK and is attributed to more than 80,000 deaths a year.