Smoking could be ‘banned’ at 85 Norwich play areas
- Credit: Archant
A bid to stamp out smoking around children may see a 'voluntary ban' introduced at more than 80 play areas around Norwich - and could be extended to even more public places.
But the move was branded as 'very patronising' by a smokers' group, who say adults do not need advice from councils on whether they should smoke near youngsters.
Health chiefs say young people are most at risk of becoming smokers themselves if they grow up in communities where smoking is the norm - so are trying to 'denormalise' it by discouraging smokers from lighting up around children.
Norwich City Council will next week decide whether to make its 85 play areas smoke-free zones, with signs at entrances and exits to discouraging smoking.
While the 'ban' would be voluntary and the council powerless to enforce it, health chiefs say evidence from other areas shows adults do pay heed to the signs.
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Breckland Council last year agreed a 'ban' at play areas, school gates and outside nurseries.
If Norwich City Council's cabinet decides to adopt a policy for play areas on Wednesday, it would run for an initial two years, with a review after 12 months.
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If successful, the council could consult on extending the 'voluntary ban' to other outdoor spaces
Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group would cover the costs of making the signs.
Vaughan Thomas, city council cabinet member with responsibility for health and wellbeing, said: 'We are committed to making Norwich a healthy city for all and working in partnership to reduce harm from smoking in our communities forms a clear part of our strategy to achieve this.
'Along with limiting the effects of second hand smoke, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest smoke-free playgrounds are associated
with lower levels of adolescent smoking and initiatives of this nature have already proved highly effective in other parts of the country.'
But Simon Clark, director of smokers' group Forest, said the proposal was 'very patronising'.
He said: 'Adults know perfectly well how to behave around children. They don't need to be told by the council whether or not they should smoke in proximity to children.
'There's absolutely no evidence that children start smoking because they see complete strangers smoking. All the evidence suggests people start smoking because of peer pressure and the influence of close family members so banning smoking in play areas isn't going to make any difference in that respect.'
He said he feared a 'slippery slope' to smoking being banned in other public areas.
Broadland District Council is considering using the signs, while South Norfolk Council already
has no smoking signs in play areas.
West Norfolk Council and North Norfolk District Council said they would monitor the project, while Great Yarmouth Borough Council is not considering a similar 'ban'.
Breckland blazes a trail
A voluntary ban on smoking in play areas in Breckland was agreed last year, with youngsters designing the signs to encourage adults not to light up around children.
Breckland Council's cabinet agreed the initiative just before Christmas and last month, the winners of a competition to design the signs were revealed.
The young winners, chosen from more than 100 entries, will see their designs converted into signs for the schools, pre-school nurseries, and town and parish councils who have signed up to the scheme to put into places such as public play areas and by school gates.
Ruby Brown, five, from Ovington, triumphed in the pre-school category; Freya Gallant, seven, from Attleborough, won the public play areas category; Harry Williams, 10, from Watton, won the primary school category and Evette Graham, 12, from Gressenhall, was the victor in the secondary school category.
Breckland councillor Marion Chapman-Allen said 'Research shows that children who see smoking as part of everyday life are more likely to become smokers themselves.
'The aim of our project is not about preventing people from smoking, but requesting them to do so responsibly, away from where children play or congregate. The children's designs get this message across very effectively.'