Wales

Smoking ban plan for playgrounds and hospital grounds

A playground with a no smoking sign Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The ban would be enforced from next summer

A ban on smoking in outdoor grounds of hospitals, schools and playgrounds in Wales has moved a step closer.

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething has launched a consultation with the ban planned for summer 2019 and those who break it could face a fine.

Voluntary bans are currently in place in some school and hospital grounds and also in public playgrounds.

If the new law is passed, it will mean patients and visitors will have to leave hospital grounds to smoke.

The consultation, which will help shape the final legislation, is also seeking views on plans to introduce additional changes to the existing smoking ban, which did not include hospital grounds or playgrounds.

These include:

  • Placing an 18 month time limit on the permission to designate a room for smoking within mental health units. The time limit would allow managers to work towards the removal of indoor smoking facilities and designate outdoor areas instead.
  • A similar time limit on the permission to designate a bedroom in hotels, guesthouses, inns, hostels and members' clubs.

The changes will be introduced under the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017, which was passed by Assembly Members last year.

Mr Gething launched the consultation at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Denbighshire. The hospital has received complaints about people ignoring the current voluntary ban in place, so mothers visiting the maternity unit have to bring babies in and out past people who are smoking.

The ban is part of moves to change the culture around smoking, by making it seen as unacceptable where children might be influenced or in places where good health is being promoted.

Mr Gething said: "We have seen significant changes to the attitudes to smoking since 2007.

"Back then we received some resistance to change, but we have seen a remarkable culture change and I am pleased our plan to extend smoke-free areas to outdoor public spaces has received overwhelming public support."

"This is another step in the right direction to de-normalise smoking in Wales."

Around 18% of people in Wales are smokers, while around 11,720 will quit this year, it is estimated.

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Media captionHealth boards 'powerless' to stop smoking outside hospitals

But it could be 2025 at the current rate before a Welsh Government target of reducing smoking prevalence reaches 16%.

Public health experts believe smoking still accounts for more than 5,000 deaths in Wales each year, around one in every six of all deaths in people aged 35 and over.

Lyndsey Watson, communications officer for the British Lung Foundation in Wales said taking her 20-month-old son Thomas near to areas where people are smoking was a concern.

"I have an asthma cough, so pollution is high on my radar," she said. "I really want the best start in life for Thomas, so I am really happy with this announcement."

But Simon Clark of smokers' group Forest said: "Smoking outside poses no threat to public health, nor is there evidence that children start smoking because they witness complete strangers lighting up in public."

He also said threatening hospital patients, visitors and staff with fines was "despicable" when some of them may be at their most vulnerable.

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