COUNCIL chiefs in St Helens have launched a bid to stamp out smoking in the majority of the borough’s playgrounds.
A new voluntary code has been passed asking residents to refrain from smoking in playareas.
It is part of a scheme by the health charity Heart of Mersey which aims to cut the number of children who start smoking.
“Smoking in children’s play areas in a fairly common practice among teenagers and adults, and as such can be perceived by youngsters as a normal activity,” said the charity’s Tobacco Control Programme Lead, Jo McCullagh.
“We want to use this voluntary code to de-normalise smoking in areas where children play and learn.
“Smoking is still the biggest cause of death and ill health in this country and we should all be doing all that we can protect children from it.”
Around 90 play areas in St Helens - mainly those in parks and open spaces - will be covered by the code.
A recent survery conducted by council chiefs found 92 per cent were in favour of the ‘ban’.
Park rangers and wardens have undergone training to increase awareness of the code with play area visitors, and colourful Play Smokefree signs, designed by a winning pupil from Allanson Street Primary School will remind people not to light up.
However, a council spokesman said the onus is on local people themselves to make the scheme a success.
Liz Gaulton, Director of Public Health for St Helens, said, “This is a voluntary, not an enforced code, but we are confident from the feedback we have had via our survey that people welcome the idea.
“The intention is that we can do something positive to reduce children’s exposure to smoking in areas where they play and learn in order to decrease the likelihood of them becoming smokers themselves.”
Councillor Alison Bacon, cabinet member for Children and Young People’s Services, said: “This scheme will not only tackle the problem of children being exposed to tobacco, it should also have an impact on the amount of cigarette litter in play areas, making them a more pleasant environment for children.”