Lord Darzi health report urges ban on smoking in London parks

Smoking should be banned in parks in the capital according to the London Health Commission report published today.

The report urged London Mayor Boris Johnson to use his powers to make bylaws banning smoking in Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square and to use his influence as the appointer of the Royal Parks board to persuade it to do the same in its parks.

If the 32 London boroughs followed suit that would mean that smoking would be banned in around 8,000 hectares of public green spaces, the first places in the UK where smoking in the open air is illegal.

However councils across the country have trialled their own bans over the past few years, primarily in and around childrens' play areas. Hackney and Islington in London, Blackpool in Lancashire and Newport, Wales are among those who have brought in their own smoke-free zones. Often these are voluntary arrangements as the cost of enforcement would be prohibitive.

The London Health Commission is an independent enquiry established by Johnson last year and chaired by former Labour minister Lord Darzi, a leading cancer surgeon at St Mary’s Hospital. Its publication Better Health for London aims to make London the healthiest large global city – those of more than five million residents.

It is estimated that there are 1.2 million smokers in London and the habit causes 8,400 early deaths each year. The commission found that 67 London schoolchildren take up the habit every day.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer for England, said it would help deter young people from smoking by reducing the likelihood of them seeing adults lighting up. "We all know smoking is bad for health," she said, "so I welcome any measures to reduce both active smoking and its role-modelling in front of children."

New York has already brought in a similar ban. Michael Bloomberg, 108th Mayor of New York City, said: "Breathing tobacco smoke – whether indoors or outdoors – is harmful to your health. That’s why we made Central Park – and all of New York City’s parks and beaches – smoke free, along with all indoor workplaces. That helped us extend life expectancy by nearly three years over my time as mayor."

Darzi led a national review of the NHS which reported back to Government in 2008. He then worked on the NHS Next Stage Review with the Department of Health. He also authored the 2007 report Healthcare for London: A Framework for Action, which recommended a reconfiguration of health services in London and advocated polyclinics to provide more services at a primary care level.

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