Park smoke ‘ban’ ignored

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A Blackpool park volunteer says smokers are still lighting up close to children’s play areas despite a smoking ban in open spaces.

Gary Pennington, chairman of the Friends of Highfield Park in South Shore, was speaking after it emerged London is considering a similar smoking ban in public open spaces which could include Trafalgar Square.

He said he remained opposed to such restrictions because he fears it drives people to smoke more at home in front of their children which is worse.

Mr Pennington said: “I am a non-smoker myself but 18 months after we had the signs put up in Blackpool, I am still opposed to them.

“It is common sense that the effects of smoking in the open air are less worse than forcing people to go back home and smoke inside in front of their children.

“We still get evidence of cigarette butts inside the kiddies play area so I don’t think putting up the signs has made a difference in the park.

“Also, many of the older generation enjoy having a cigarette while sitting on a park bench and you have to ask - how many freedoms are we taking away from people?”

But health chiefs say the signs are having an impact.

Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health in Blackpool, added: “Smoking is the major cause of premature death, with one in two smokers dying prematurely from smoking related diseases.

“Although we can’t enforce anything, we want to improve the health of people across our town and these signs are having an effect.”

Cancer surgeon Lord Darzi has called for a smoking ban in Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and the Royal Parks in his London Health Commission report, to help reduce the 8,400 early deaths each year among London smokers.

Blackpool’s signs are advisory only, but London is considering the possibility of bylaws. Figures due to be discussed by the resort’s health and wellbeing board on Wednesday show 29.5 per cent of adults in Blackpool smoke compared to the average for the rest of England of 20 per cent.

Nearly 400 people in Blackpool die prematurely each year as a result of smoking-related diseases, while another 8,000 suffer smoking related illnesses such as heart disease.