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SCHOOL GROUNDS AND PLAYGROUNDS ACROSS RCT TO BE SMOKE-FREE FROM 1ST MARCH

Written by on 23rd February 2021

New laws will soon come in to force to make more places in Wales and Rhondda Cynon Taf smoke-free.

The laws being introduced across Wales on 1st March, build on the smoking ban introduced in 2007 and will protect more people from the harms of second-hand smoke and help those trying to quit.

In 2009 Rhondda Cynon Taf Council was one of the first Council’s in the UK to prohibit smoking in over 215 Council owned playgrounds (including MUGA’s and Skate parks) and anyone who was found littering smoking related items at this time would face a £75 fixed penalty notice – this has now risen to £100. This was introduced as part of the Smoke Free Playgrounds initiative, which asked local authorities across the UK to introduce smoke-free policies in their children’s playgrounds to protect young people from the harm of second-hand smoke.

As of March 2016, all local authorities in Wales have implemented voluntary bans in their local playgrounds and all 22 local authorities in Wales now have smoke-free playgrounds.

The new law will now mean that the Council’s Public Health Enforcement officers will have the power to issue fines to anyone found smoking in school grounds and public playgrounds, as well as the outdoor areas of children’s day care and childminding settings, and hospital grounds. Anyone found breaking the law will face a £100 fine.

Wales is the first part of the UK to make it an offence to smoke in these areas, which will further de-normalise smoking and reduce the chances of children and young people starting smoking in the first place – ultimately saving lives.

Councillor Rhys Lewis, Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, Well-being and Cultural Services, said:

“There is strong public support to restrict smoking where children are likely to be present and we must continue to take steps to de-normalise this habit and provide a very clear message for our children. The evidence that smoking is harmful and damaging is clear cut and our message must be too.

“These measures are introduced so that those visiting our playgrounds and the staff, parents and guardians, and visitors to our schools and care setting can enjoy a healthier environment, whilst also crucially providing a safer and cleaner setting for our future generations.”

Many smokers have already been motivated to give up smoking due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it is hoped this new legislation will encourage even more to. Quitting with support provides the best chance of stopping smoking for good.

Chief Executive of ASH Wales, an organisation on a mission to achieve a smoke-free Wales, Suzanne Cass, said:

“Those who start smoking before the age of 16 are twice as likely to continue to smoke compared to those who begin later in life, and they are more likely to become heavier smokers.

“We know from the latest ASH Wales YouGov survey that 81% of adult smokers in Wales were aged 18 or under when they tried their first cigarette. It’s crucially important that we prevent today’s young people from becoming the next generation of smokers.

“We hope this legislation will also pave the way for more public areas in Wales to go smoke-free.”

Those looking for help to stop smoking can access Wales’ free NHS support service Help Me Quit on 0800 085 2219 or visit www.helpmequit.wales for help and support, including access to free stop smoking medication.