No more playing in the smoke
This week (April 2nd) we celebrated five years of smoke-free premises in Wales and according to a YouGov survey commissioned by ASH Wales in 2011, 81% of the Welsh public now support the ban.
But 15 people a day still die from smoking-related disease in Wales – that’s one person every 90 minutes or 5,650 a year. The Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) confirmed that exposure to second-hand smoke can cause respiratory disease; cot death; middle ear disease and asthmatic attacks in children. SCOTH report (external link)
The Welsh Government says it is serious about tackling this serious public health issue and has proposed a ban on smoking in cars carrying children if a public awareness campaign doesn’t bring levels down within three years. Legislation could also be extended to include mental health units and all hospital grounds.
We’ve come a long way since April 2nd 2007 but we need to go even further.
If we are to protect vulnerable people from the dangers of second hand smoke and just as importantly, de-normalise tobacco for young children more radical action is needed to prevent people from becoming addicted.
Today young people from across Wales will call on every local authority in Wales to ban smoking in its playgrounds after an FOI request carried out by ASH Wales revealed that just two of Wales’s 22 local authorities have official policies covering outdoor areas where children congregate.
Young campaigners are gathering in Cardiff Bay today as part of Kick Butts Day event which is a global campaign to allow young people to speak out against the harm caused by tobacco.
A Yougov survey carried out this year shows that 79% of Welsh adults now believe that smoking should be banned in playgrounds in order to protect children from second hand smoke and tobacco-related litter.
Caerphilly Council has just banned smoking in nearly 100 play areas after a campaign by the local Youth Forum, and local schoolchildren will now design the signs to help enforce it.
All Councils in Wales already have the power to ban and enforce this rule and we want to see them all following Caerphilly’s lead. One of the key planks of the Welsh Government’s Tobacco Control Delivery Plan published this year is ‘reducing exposure to second hand smoke’.
We know that children are at particular risk from second hand smoke and that they are more likely to start smoking themselves if they see adults doing it in a family friendly environment. It is vital that we de-normalise smoking to reduce the rates of young people taking it up and also reduce their exposure to smoke in areas that they gather.
But despite pressure from the Welsh Government to reduce the harm caused by second hand smoke to children, it is disappointing to see that only Caerphilly and Powys Councils have extended their smoke-free policy to outdoor areas, and enforcement remains a challenge.
Smoking continues to be the largest single preventable cause of ill health and premature death in Wales and while we must celebrate today’s landmark anniversary, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels.
Elen de Lacy is Chief Executive for ASH Wales
ASH Wales has developed a toolkit to help local authorities implement playground bans which can be found on their website www.ashwales.org.uk
For more information about Kick Butts Day in Wales visit: http://www.ashwales.org.uk/kick-butts-day/
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