For Immediate Release

A leading Welsh public health charity is calling on local authorities across Wales to stand up for children’s rights by ensuring they can experience a smokefree environment in their parks and playgrounds.

Launching the campaign in Cardiff, ASH Wales’s Chief Executive, Tanya Buchanan, said: “We want all local authorities in Wales to support our campaign to ensure parks and playgrounds under their control are smokefree. Children have the right to experience a smokefree environment whether at home, in cars, taking part in after school sporting activities or out and about enjoying their leisure time with friends and family.

"Attitudes to smoking have changed over time. People are more aware today of the harmful effects of second-hand smoke and there is strong public support for our campaign with 3 out of 4 adults agreeing that smoking should be banned in outdoor children’s play areas(1).

"When children see adults smoking in a family friendly public place it "normalises" smoking, making children more likely to try it themselves. The perception that tobacco use is normal is one factor that encourages adolescent tobacco use. Making parks smokefree will protect our children from developing health problems from breathing in second hand smoke because when you smoke, so does everyone else.”

Children are at particular risk from second-hand smoke with over 20,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infection, 120,000 cases of middle ear disease, 22,000 new cases of wheeze and asthma, 200 cases of bacterial meningitis, and 9,500 children admitted to hospital every year in the UK(2). Second-hand smoke can also cause health problems for pregnant women and others who suffer from allergies or medical conditions like asthma and heart disease.

Chief Executive of Keep Wales Tidy, Lesley Jones, said: “Smoking related litter causes significant harm to the environment with 90% of Welsh streets affected. Cigarette butts can take up to twelve years to biodegrade and they can cause health problems to children and animals if ingested. This is a blight on our environment and a constant influence on children. Over 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered worldwide each year. They are the most littered item in the world(3).

"Smoking litter makes our parks and public spaces look dirty and uninviting and cause longterm damage to the environment. Our children deserve a clean, safe place to play.”

Local Councillor Richard Jerrett said: “Smoking near children is detrimental to their health and should not be tolerated. I want children to be able to enjoy Cardiff’s wonderful parks and outdoor spaces without being adversely affected by second-hand smoke.”

Councillor Freda Salway added: “Anything that makes a less-polluted environment is better for our children, and surely it must be safer to have no smoking in children's playgrounds.”

Concerned local resident Richard Walters said: “Local councils have an important role to play in leading the way on improving public health for local residents by reducing exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke and making venues more family friendly. Children can’t always move away from other people's smoke, and seeing adults smoke only encourages them to do the same. It is also unfair to the majority of park users who are non-smokers. I will be writing to Cardiff Council to ask them to implement tobacco free policies around playground equipment, playing fields and sporting grounds and that events run or sponsored by Cardiff Council are smokefree. This isn’t difficult to enforce, erecting signage around these playing grounds will act as a deterrent and is mainly self-policing.”

Notes

(1) You Gov Survey March 2010

(2) Royal College of Physicians (March 2010), Passive Smoking and Children, RCP London

(3) Keep Wales Tidy (Sept 2009), Review of Smoking-Related Litter.