Public playgrounds across West Cheshire have gone permanently smoke free to coincide with National No Smoking Day.
Cheshire West and Chester Council has introduced a voluntary no smoking code called Play Smokefree to all of its public playgrounds to deter children from taking up smoking - the single biggest cause of ill health and death in the UK.
This is in parallel with the ‘Proud to be a Quitter’ campaign as part of National No Smoking Day.
The Play Smokefree code aims to reduce the number of youngsters who take up smoking after being influenced by those who already smoke. Three out of four children are aware of cigarettes before they reach the age of five and nationally an estimated 207,000 children under the age of 16 try cigarettes for the first time each year.
Among adult smokers, about two-thirds report that they took up smoking before the age of 18 and almost two-fifths (40%) had started smoking regularly before the age of 16.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Cabinet member for culture, leisure and wellbeing, said: “Smoking in children’s play areas can be a fairly common practice among teenagers and adults, and as such can be perceived by youngsters as a normal activity.
“A child who smokes just one cigarette doubles their chances of becoming a regular smoker by the age of 17. We want to use this voluntary code to de-normalise smoking in areas where children play and learn.
“This is a voluntary code but we are confident from the feedback we have had via our survey that people welcome the idea. It is really important that we do what we can to try to reduce the number of children taking up a habit that could ultimately kill them.”
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In Cheshire West and Chester more than 120 play areas are covered with the voluntary code. The scheme already has strong local support, a recent survey of 218 local residents showed that 92.7% supported not smoking within playground areas.
Park rangers and wardens will promote the code with play area visitors and colourful Play Smokefree signs, which have been designed by local children, are on display to remind people not to light up.
For help to quit smoking contact your local Stop Smoking Service through the Cheshire Change Hub: www.cheshirechangehub.org or telephone 0300 777 0033.