Norfolk public health chief welcomes calls for smoking ban in parks

A smoker enjoys a cigarette in Chapelfield Gardens. Photo: Bill Smith

A smoker enjoys a cigarette in Chapelfield Gardens. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

Calls for smoking to be banned in public parks and squares have been welcomed by Norfolk's public health chief.

A report by cancer specialist Lord Darzi, who was appointed by Mayor Boris Johnson to chair the London Health Commission, makes the recommendations for the capital, to include thousands of acres of parkland in London and landmarks including Trafalgar Square.

The plans, if implemented, could be an example to other areas of the UK, Lord Darzi said.

'The ideas and proposals in this report have been developed for London. Yet they could just as easily apply to other big cities in the UK - London should be a leader, not an exception,' he said.

And in Norfolk, where 55 children start smoking every week - the equivalent of two classrooms - the vision has been embraced.

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Dr Augustine Pereira, consultant in public health medicine for Norfolk County Council, said the report was a 'robust piece of work' and that it was realistic.

'These recommendations, from a public health perspective, we totally endorse,' he said. 'We've seen a huge reduction in the prevalence of smoking since the ban [on smoking in enclosed public spaces] was introduced in 2007.

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'There was a lot of resistance from the public about how it would be implemented, now many more people approve of the change.

'We're probably going through a similar period where initially there will be some resistance, but my view is that public perception will eventually change.'

He added that a ban in parks would help 'de-normalise' smoking, making the sight of someone smoking on a park bench a rare one.

And he believed that it would make smokers contemplate kicking the habit, giving them more incentive.

He said that 90pc of smokers start smoking before the age of 19.

'Anything we can do to restrict places that young people can go and smoke is to be welcomed,' he added.

Lord Darzi's guidelines have also been endorsed by Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, where all of the city's parks and beaches are smoke-free areas, and the proposals have been praised by Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Sally Davies.

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