Smoke-free designation for parks is a distraction, says consultant

Blackpool City Council designates green spaces as smoke-free areas to protect children's health.

Blackpool City Council's plans to declare 13 parks and open spaces smoke-free sites have been dismissed as a distraction at a time of diminishing resources.

A planning application was submitted last week for signs that read: "Altogether now - to protect children, this is a designated smoke-free site." They will go up at entrances to the parks and playing fields in the joint council and local NHS initiative.

NHS Blackpool, which is paying for the signs, said almost 400 people die every year in the city as a result of smoking and 8,000 receive medical care for preventable smoking-related conditions.

A council spokeswoman said: "The application will take six weeks. It is not a ban as such but tells people not to smoke and is unenforceable. We are trying to encourage behaviour change and most people agree with the idea."

However, consultant Sid Sullivan labelled the move a distraction. "There are far worse polluters. Making people take heed will be impossible and, once again, they will expect the general public to intervene," he said.

"This is nothing more than posturing. The cost and the ridicule when it proves to be impossible to make happen will damage reputations and distract parks staff with far more important emphasis for their diminishing resources."

Friends of Highfield Park chairman Gary Pennington said: "Money could be better spent elsewhere. Why is there money for this when we cannot get funding for signs against dog fouling?"

Freedom2choose spokeswoman Belinda Cunnison said: "If people think they are going to be harassed for smoking outdoors they are less likely to take their children to the park."

Signs are set for Anchorsholme, George Bancroft, Boundary, Claremont, Crossland Road, East Pines, Highfield Road, Kingscote and Watson Road Parks as well as Central Drive Recreation Ground, Fishers Field, Gynn Square and Whiteholme playing fields.

Green-space consultant Kit Campbell said: "As well as the health impacts on smokers and those around them, smokers often leave a trail of litter that blows around making picking it up more difficult and more expensive.

"Some people suggest spot fines, but you need people to levy and collect them. A 'smoke warden' on their own stands no chance against some smokers."

Council comment

"I don't think it is reasonable for children who are playing to be suffering from inhaling smoke and to being influenced by seeing adults also smoking. We'll have to wait and see what the reaction is but I think most people would welcome the reason for it." - Ivan Taylor, chairman, Blackpool health & well-being board

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