MP for Sefton Central, Bill Esterson, is backing a new voluntary no smoking code across the Borough’s public play areas to deter children from taking up smoking - the single biggest cause of ill health and death.
The Play Smokefree code, which was introduced by Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council last month, aims to reduce the number of youngsters who take up smoking after being influenced by those who do. Three out of four children are aware of cigarettes before they reach the age of five, according to the heart health charity Heart of Mersey (HoM), which is behind the initiative. Nationally, an estimated 330,000 children under the age of 16 try cigarettes for the first time each year.
Jo McCullagh, Tobacco Control Programme Lead at HoM, said: “Children learn from adults. If children see smoking as a normal part of everyday life they are more likely to become smokers themselves. I think that, knowing this, most adults would agree that not lighting up in a children’s play area is not too much of a sacrifice and I hope residents will support this initiative.”
More than 60 Sefton play areas will be covered by the code, which has been developed by HoM in partnership with Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council and NHS Sefton.
Although voluntary, the scheme already has strong local support. A recent survey of 205 Sefton residents (a quarter of them smokers), showed that 94.2% supported not smoking within playground areas.
Bill Esterson, MP for Sefton Central said: “Efforts to discourage uptake of smoking in children and young people are a prioritybecause we have a duty to protect our children from starting something that could ultimately kill them. I hope that people will supportthis scheme by observing the Play Smokefree code.”
Nationally, 11% of 15 year olds smoke and an estimated 330,000 children under the age of 16 try cigarettes for the first time each year. The North West rate is higher, with 18% of 14-17 years olds smoking.
Public support for smokefree play areas is high. A survey of 1,408 adults to 87 play areas across Cheshire and Merseyside found that 88.7% supported the introduction of a smokefree code in children’s play areas, including the majority of smokers. Other countries have already taken the initiative. Smoking in public play areas and parks is banned in Spain, Hong Kong, Latvia, Singapore and in cities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and California, including San Francisco.
1. Smoking and Children
Smoking is the single, greatest cause of ill health and death and kills one in two of every lifelong-users. Children learn their behaviour from adults and become aware of smoking at an early age – 3 out of 4 children are aware of cigarettes before they reach 5 years old. Nicotine is as addictive as heroin and cocaine and children can become addicted to it quickly – a child who smokes 1 cigarette doubles their chances of becoming a regular smoker by 17.
2. Help to Quit Smoking
For help to quit smoking, contact your local NHS Stop Smoking Service. Developed by experts and ex-smokers and delivered by professionals, they will provide advice and support completely free of charge. Text QUIT plus your name and postcode to 80039.
3. About Heart of Mersey
Heart of Mersey is a heart health charity committed to reducing health inequalities among the communities of Cheshire and Merseyside, and beyond, through advocating for policies which encourage healthier lifestyle choices concerning diet, tobacco control and physical activity.