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Play areas could become smoke free

Council owned play areas across Malvern Hills District could become smoke free areas if plans are approved by councillors next week.

Members of the council’s Executive Committee will be asked on Tuesday (29 March) to sign up to the Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control.

The declaration commits the council to carrying out a series of actions to encourage people to give up smoking, prevent people from taking up the habit and protect non-smokers.

If the move is approved the council will take action to introduce a ban on smoking at the seven play areas it owns and manages, following a public consultation. The play areas included are in Priory Park, Malvern, Dean Close and Montgomery Close, Powick, Milestone Road in Upton and Gainsborough Close, Gifford Drive and Blandford Close in Welland.

The ban will be voluntary, rather than enforced, but evidence from elsewhere in the country shows communities are supportive and abide by them.

Research by polling company YouGov, shows there is substantial support amongst smokers for a ban on smoking in children’s play areas with 49 per cent in favour and 30 per cent against.

The Royal Society for Public Health also suggests stopping smokers from lighting up in prominent public places will prevent them from setting a bad example to children.

Other actions the council will be carrying out include doing more to encourage staff to stop smoking as part of the Worcestershire Works Well scheme and supporting health and wellbeing activities and schemes run by partner organisations.

Malvern Hills will become the fourth council in Worcestershire to sign the declaration along with Worcestershire County Council, Wyre Forest District and Worcester City Councils.

Cllr David Watkins, Portfolio Holder for Healthier Communities, said: “Smoking causes serious damage to health and is particularly harmful to children as it puts them at greater risk of cot death, meningitis, lung infections and ear disease. Passive smoking also costs our local NHS £243,000 a year on top of the £2million the NHS spends in the Malvern Hills District treating ill-health directly related to smoking.

“Signing this declaration sends a signal that as a council we are serious about discouraging smoking and protecting the non-smoking public, particularly children, from the affects of second hand smoke.”