Wales has recently set in place a ban on smoking in playgrounds, school grounds and hospital sites, granting councils the power to issue fixed-penalty notices for any breaches.
In 2017, the UK’s Tobacco Control Plan listed the government’s plans for a “Smoke Free” England, which aims to reduce smoking rates to 5% or less, and would equate to roughly one in 20 people being smokers. The finalized plan was rolled out in 2019, with a target to achieve the ‘Smoke-free’ status by 2030.

Sadly, recent forecasts are revealing that 97% of England is likely to miss this target, and only 4 out of the 135 existing counties are believed to be on track. These figures were calculated based on current PHE smoking prevalence and quit rates.

The least successful boroughs at reducing smoking are in London

The data reported that five of the ten least successful areas at reducing smoking rates are in London. Brent, Barking, Dagenham, and Havering were found to have the lowest successful smoking quit rates in England, at less than 0.1%. While Slough, Liverpool, St Helen’s, Thurrock and Knowsley, are leading the way with the highest proportion of successful quitters.

Besides the obvious public health implications, this delay is predicted to cost over £40.4 billion in local authority social care and NHS costs. In fact, according to NHS data, there were over half a million smoking related hospital admissions in 2019/2020 alone. This figure is 10% higher than it was a decade earlier.

To this effect, five local councils; Durham, North Tyneside, Newcastle, and the City of Manchester have all banned smoking on stretches of the pavement where bars, restaurants and cafes are licensed to put out tables, and others are considering following suit.

Oxfordshire to ban smoking in certain outdoor spaces

Oxfordshire is also planning to ban smoking from outdoor restaurants as part of a major strategy that aims to make the county smoke-free by 2025, which is five years ahead of the government’s plan for England as a whole. It also plans to take tougher actions to stop the sale of tobacco to under-18s and work to discourage smoking in homes, cars, play parks and at the school gates.

“Oxfordshire has set itself an ambitious aim to be smoke-free by 2025,” said a statement from the council. “Creating healthy smoke-free environments – including considering proposals for hospitality outdoor seating to be 100% smoke-free – is just one small part of a wider range of county-wide plans.”

“At present there are no timeframes for smoke-free pavement licensing proposals and nothing has yet been agreed. Any decision on this would be ultimately the responsibility of our individual district councils in Oxfordshire. Our tobacco control strategy further outlines our smoke-free 2025 plans, which includes creating healthy and family friendly smoke-free spaces, helping people stop smoking in the first place, and supporting those who wish to quit,” added the statement.

Pavement bans

In response to such actions, campaigners are calling for a similar ban throughout Wales. Last March, Wales set in place a ban on smoking in playgrounds, school grounds and hospital sites, granting councils the power to issue fixed-penalty notices for any breaches. This regulation, made Wales the first UK country to set in place such a ban in public playgrounds and school grounds. Well-being Minister Eluned Morgan, said that the aim behind this measure is motivating people to quit cigarettes. “The purpose of the requirements under these regulations for smoke-free hospital grounds is to promote behavioural change, and to help smokers using our hospital services to quit.”

Meanwhile, UK ministers were recently outraged by Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s proposal to set in place such a ban smoking outside pubs and other entertainment venues. They said that the move would be detrimental as such businesses have already been crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read Further: The Guardian

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