New smoke-free restrictions will be made effective in March in school grounds, hospital grounds, public playgrounds and outdoor child care settings in Wales.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething announced the plans on Tuesday which are set to make Wales the first country in the UK to legislate for bans on smoking in playgrounds and school grounds. Currently, voluntary smoking bans are in place in many settings, but from 1 March 2021, it will be an offence to smoke in areas including children’s playgrounds.
The new measures are aimed at protecting people’s health from the harms of second-hame smoke, with it hoped that smoking behaviours for children and young people can also be further de-normalised by the measures.
The measures will be enforced by local authorities who will have the powers to issue fixed-penalty notices.
In Scotland, similar restrictions on hospital grounds are in the process of being implemented.
Announcing the new measures in Wales, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said;
“There is strong public support to restrict smoking where children are likely to be present. We will continue to take steps to de-normalise this habit and provide a very clear message for children. The evidence that smoking is harmful and damaging is clear cut and our message must be too.
“The restrictions for hospital grounds will promote behaviour change and support smoking cessation among smokers who use our hospital sites and services. Support for our stop smoking service Help Me Quit is available across these sites, by calling 0808 163 3129 for free, or by visiting www.helpmequit.wales.
Mr Gething also said that while evidence is still emerging, people who smoke are generally thought to have an increased risk of contracting respiratory infections such as COVID-19 – adding that the new measures would support Wales’ response to the pandemic.
In England, a new obesity strategy was revealed at the end of July following what the UK Government described as a ‘wake-up call’ from the COVID-19 pandemic. Data has shown that the higher a person’s BMI (Body Mass Index) is, the higher the risk they face from serious illness or death from COVID-19.
Both the obesity strategy in England and the new smoke-free restrictions in Wales are arguably needed measures in a wider context but have perhaps been seen as a higher priority to implement in the wake of the pandemic hitting the UK.