London Colney play area smoking ban could spread further

A SMOKING BAN for children’s play areas spearheaded by London Colney Parish Council could be adopted by other local authorities.

In October signs banning smoking were placed in children’s play areas in London Colney after the council received complaints from residents about discarded cigarette ends.

However, rather than adopting bylaws to punish those who breach the ban and delegating staff to enforce it the council are adopting what they call a gentle approach.

Cllr Ian Orton, chair of London Colney Parish Council, said the authority is not trying to crack a nut with a sledgehammer and the signs are a formal suggestion.

He said: “We’re in a society that doesn’t favour smoking and wherever possible should look at ways to make it more difficult for people to smoke because in the long run it will do their health a lot better.”

Other parish councils from in and around Hertfordshire have shown an interest in the scheme, and if it’s successful will lay the ground work for other authorities to introduce it.

It is hoped the ban, besides reducing the effects of second-hand smoke on children and other members of the community, will limit damage caused to park equipment by cigarette ends.

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Their approach is certainly a fresh way of thinking, but it raises questions over whether a ban with no penalties will be effective.

However, Cllr Orton is under no illusions about the pitfalls of this approach and said that next June the council will look at how successful the ban has been to see if further measures need to be adopted. He said: “If we still aren’t seeing the changes we want then we need to review it in a more serious light.

“Many people have said we should do that but I would rather try over a period of time a more gentle approach and make it work.”

In June, Stony Stratford Town Council revealed a motion put forward by resident Cllr Paul Bartlett to ban smoking in any open place or public street.

The Buckinghamshire councillor wanted to create a bylaw to enforce the ban, which would have been the first of its kind in the country.

However, protests were held in July against the ban and voting on the motion has been delayed by the council twice – at their meetings in July and September.

Cllr Orton said: “The vast majority of comments we’ve received have been complimentary, usually from people who have gone through the pain and discomfort of giving up smoking and have been grateful for the consequences.

“But there are other people who have basically said you can’t do this and it isn’t right.”

Smoking bans have been a divisive issue since legislation introduced in 2007 banned smoking in all enclosed workplaces, including pubs and restaurants.

Since then smoking bans for cars have also been suggested by the British Medical Association, with objectors to such bans claiming it infringes on their human rights.

“One mum who spoke to me said she liked to have a cigarette while her kids we’re playing and I said I do respect that but you have got to take into account everybody else,” said Cllr Orton.

“You grow up learning and watching your parents and if they’re not smoking there is every chance you won’t smoke yourself.”