Call for smoking ban in London parks

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Proposals have been submitted to London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, to ban smoking in London parks, in a bid to make it one of the healthiest cities globally.

The new plans would allow Johnson to use his powers to initiate bylaws banning smoking in Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square, as well as his influence over Royal Parks to do the same in the 10 green spaces, including Green Park and Hyde Park.

If this is implemented, it would create the first UK places where smoking is banned outdoors. It became illegal to smoke in enclosed public spaces in the UK during 2007. This included restaurants, clubs and pubs.

The proposal was drafted by experts from the London Health Commission, which was set up during 2013 under the eminent surgeon and ex-Labour health minister, Lord Darzi, in a bid to try and persuade some of the 1.2 million smokers in the city to quit.

The advisers hope that this initiative will result in London’s 32 councils following suit and banning smoking in their open spaces as well.

The government’s chief medical officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said the implementation of the ban would stop young people from starting the habit as they would not see adults doing it. She said everyone knows that smoking is bad for one’s health, so any measure to reduce active smoking and role-modelling for children is welcomed.

According to the former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, the banning of smoking in the city’s parks and on its beaches had attributed to increasing life expectancy by three years during his 12-year period of being in charge.

The one problem is that Johnson has hinted that the plan was too interventionist. He said that the beauty of living in London is that people are allowed to live their lives as they wish, provided they do not break the law or cause harm to others. He is, however, prepared to act on the advice given, but only if he could be convinced that it would save lives.

Sources at City Hall stated that the local authorities in London already have the power to ban smoking in their open areas if they wanted to.

Boris Johnson is due to consult with London councils on this issue.

Although there has been a decline in smoking rates, around 1.2 million people in London still smoke. Diseases linked to smoking are estimated to cause around 8400 premature deaths and about 51000 hospital admissions annually in London.

The smokers’ rights group Forest said the ban would be ‘outrageous’. The director of Forest, Simon Clark, said there is no health risk to anyone other than the smoker and if you do not like the smell, you should walk away.

He said tobacco is legal and if the chief medical officer does not want children to watch adults smoking, she should ask the government to introduce designated smoking areas in clubs and pubs, which will allow adults to smoke in comfort. He added that soon smoking will be banned in people’s own gardens in case a puff of smoke goes over the fence.

He stated that if Johnson supports this proposal, his easy-going image will be blown away. He added that it will show that he is like every other politician who is quite happy to micro-manage everyone’s life and stomp on ordinary people.

The chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Deborah Arnott, welcomed the proposal and stated that they hope the mayor will support it and see it as a priority.

Image Credit: James Bowe

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