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Pledge to tackle harm caused by tobacco

Malvern Hills District Council has pledged to play its part in reducing the damage caused by tobacco.

Councillors and staff have signed up to the Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control which 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.

More than 7,000 people still smoke in Malvern Hills District and according to Public Health England the habit claims 126 lives in the area every year.

The local NHS spends more than £2.2million treating smoking related diseases while the cost to the district’s economy in lost productivity is estimated to be £14.6million.

The first action the council is taking as part of the declaration is to make the seven play areas it owns smoke free by introducing a voluntary ban.

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.

A six week consultation is currently underway and residents are being asked for their views on the proposals.

The results of the consultation will then be analysed and it is hoped to make the play areas voluntary smoke free in early June.

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 while it also helps cut smoking related litter.

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 District Council is the fourth local authority in Worcestershire to sign the declaration along with Worcestershire County Council, Wyre Forest District and Worcester City Councils.

Cllr Phil Grove, Leader of Malvern Hills District Council, said: “This is sending a clear signal that we are going to be proactive in discouraging people from smoking and help our residents lead more active, healthier lives which is a key part of our new five year plan.”

Cllr David Watkins, Portfolio Holder for Healthier Communities, said: “I’m delighted we’re taking the lead on this issue by not only signing the declaration, but also introducing smoke free play areas. Smoking seriously damages health but is particularly harmful to children as it puts them at greater risk of cot death, meningitis, lung infections and ear disease.

“Smoke free play areas have been successfully introduced across the country and I’m confident we’ll have the support of the vast majority of residents in helping to protect our children’s health.”

To take part in the consultation, email communityservices@malvernhills.gov.uk with your views. Visit www.malvernhills.gov.uk/smokefree for more information. Consultation closes on 27 May 2016.