MORE than three-quarters of Scots want to see smoking banned in outdoor play areas, new research has found.
Following the success of the ban on smoking in enclosed public places since 2006, a poll now suggests many would now like to see this extended to open-air locations.
The survey of more than 1,000 Scottish adults found that 78 per cent would be in favour of smoking being prohibited in play areas, such as parks and sports facilities, while only 11 per cent were against it.
While health campaigners welcomed the support given to such a move, others questioned the evidence for moving smoking bans into outdoor areas.
A ban on smoking in play parks has already been introduced in many areas in Wales, while the Scottish Government’s smoking strategy, published earlier this year, said councils should consider extending smoke-free policies to other areas within their jurisdiction.
Ministers have also announced that smoking will be banned within hospital grounds by 2015, with many health boards already enforcing this policy.
The latest research, carried out by YouGov, suggests the public would support further widening of the smoking ban in efforts to protect children.
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland, which commissioned the poll, welcomed the findings.
As well as preventing children being exposed to tobacco fumes, it is hoped reducing their exposure to cigarettes may make them less likely to take up the habit. Research has suggested that 20,000 Scottish children, aged 11 to 15, start smoking each year.
Sheila Duffy, ASH Scotland’s chief executive, said: “We know that children who grow up seeing people smoking around them are more likely to end up experimenting with cigarettes and getting hooked on them.”
Peter Johnston, health and wellbeing spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA), said councils supported having areas such as play parks smoke-free, but would not have the resources to police any bans.
“Councils and CoSLA are very supportive of making Scotland smoke-free and we recognise that children’s play areas are not an appropriate place for people to be smoking,” he said.
“It sets the wrong lifestyle model for children and it also potentially impacts on children’s health. But then we come to the issue of how it is possible and practical to do something when people smoke in play areas.
“Our view is that it is worth doing, but it will have to be done by communities taking it on themselves to do that and recognising they would want to create a healthier environment for their children and they will have to look at how they do that themselves.
“But what we are quite clear about is that local authorities would not have the resources to police it.”
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, questioned the evidence for extending smoke-free zones to outside areas.
“The public smoking ban was introduced to protect non-smokers from the alleged risks of second-hand smoke,” he said. “There is not a shred of evidence that smoking outside is harmful to any non-smoker, young or old.
“This is all about denormalising smoking, pretending that smokers don’t exist.
“What next? Are they going to ban smoking in all outdoor areas, forcing people to smoke at home?”
The YouGov poll also revealed support for moves to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes in Scotland, with 64 per cent backing the idea to try to make tobacco less attractive to younger people.