Action on Smoking & Health (Scotland): Games can be a buzz without wheeze

Lachie Stewart and Allan Wells are both Commonwealth Games heroes for Scotland. Stewart won the 10,000 metres race in thrilling style at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

ASH Scotland believes it will send out a positive message to children and young people if smoking is banned around the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and other venues during the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Picture: Jane Barlow

Sprinter Wells won Gold in the 200m and the 4x100m relay at the 1978 Games, and at the 1982 event, the Olympic champion won gold again in the 100m and the 200m.

The two champion runners have something else in common. Both took part in public health campaigns related to tobacco after their rise to fame.

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Stewart was filmed in the early 1970s coaching a group of young runners at an athletics stadium, encouraging an out-of-breath smoker in the race as he yelled: “Come on John, you can do better than that.”

Wells featured in an advert in the 1980s that showed him in a freeze frame as he burst the tape at the finishing line, a message in large lettering on his vest stating: “You won’t catch me smoking.”

Who better to illustrate the health dangers of tobacco and the benefits of good health than Commonwealth Games champions?

Now that Scotland is once more hosting the Commonwealth Games next year, it’s the ideal opportunity to have a tobacco-free event.

ASH (Action on Smoking & Health) Scotland believes that having smoking areas at 
venues at next year’s Games in Glasgow would send out the wrong message at a sporting event. So we are campaigning 
to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Do we really want to see people puffing away at the new Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, or around the spectacular facilities at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre? We don’t think there should be smoking areas at Games arenas such as Hampden Park, Celtic Park or Ibrox, where the atmosphere should be family-friendly.

Along with others, we are putting pressure on the Games organising committee to make the showpiece event tobacco-free. It seems a decision from them is imminent, but so far their response has been vague. They will adhere to the current law regulating smoking in public places, they say.

Our message to them, to use the words of the great Lachie Stewart, is: “Come on, you can do better than that.”

Our call is being backed by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and a host of Commonwealth countries, as well as the health experts who ensured the last Games, in Delhi, were tobacco-free.

A letter calling for a smoke-free Games has been signed by 40 health organisations in 16 Commonwealth countries and sent to the Games organising committee by ASH Scotland.

The outpouring of international support comes from the rest of the UK and other Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India as well as nations from across Africa.

But the strength of feeling on the issue has also led to backing from nations outside the Commonwealth, such as the USA, Burkina Faso, Argentina and Syria.

There is no place for tobacco at the Commonwealth Games. An event celebrating healthy achievement and providing positive role models for our young people should support people not to smoke, rather than providing facilities for them to do so, and create smoke-free environments for children.

It will be the largest sporting and cultural event ever to take place in Scotland. The eyes of the world will be looking to see what kind of Games Scotland will organise.

It would be a shame if Glasgow’s Games did not live up to the standard set by the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, where the use, carrying, supply and sale of any tobacco product was banned in and around the Games venues.

Our vision for a tobacco-free Games in Glasgow is about more than simply enforcing the law on smoke-free indoor areas and no promotion of tobacco.

We are calling on the organisers to commit to having no sales of tobacco at any 
venue and no designated smoking areas within the venue grounds.

This is the only way to ensure that the Games fit with the Scottish Government’s vision of the next generation being tobacco-free.

Dr Linda de Caestecker, director of public health at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, has told us: “We absolutely support the aspiration to make the 2014 Commonwealth Games smoke-free.”

To underline that message, the health board hopes to offer stop-smoking support to spectators and those who work at the Games.

We believe an event celebrating healthy achievement and providing positive role models for our young people should create smoke-free environments for children.

It should also support people not to smoke, rather than providing facilities for them to do so.

ASH Scotland is keeping the pressure on the organising committee to garner more support from the public. When it comes to an important issue like this, we are not going to run out of puff.

• Sheila Duffy is chief executive of Action on Smoking & Health (Scotland)