New smoking ban to target public parks and beaches

PUBLIC parks and beaches would become smoke-free areas under plans being rolled out by local authorities.

The locations are the next frontier for a smoking ban, with the possible introduction of by-laws which will stop people lighting up.

Tobacco control officials have set their sights on extending a zero-tolerance approach to more sites, 18 years after Ireland became the first country in the world to outlaw smoking in the workplace.

In its latest report, the Department of Health’s Tobacco-Free Ireland section said it plans to promote a smoking ban in certain parks and beaches, “in conjunction with local authorities by voluntary measures or by the introduction of by-laws”.

A survey carried out last year found smoking rates increased from 17pc in 2019 to 18pc last year. Prevalence is highest among 45 to 54-year-olds – 24pc of whom smoke.

Roughly half of smokers reported changes in smoking behaviour during the Covid-19 restrictions, with 28pc saying they smoked more cigarettes than before the pandemic.

The latest update shows 60pc of the clubs involved in the GAA’s Healthy Clubs initiative – which aims to provide hubs for health within communities – had a smoke-free and vape-free policy.

It also found a number of initiatives introducing tobacco-free environments in areas frequented by children have been established by local authorities.

In 2020 in Limerick 42 outdoor locations where children and young people are likely to be were displaying “Not Around Us” signage. These include school gates, community playgrounds and leisure facilities.

In Offaly, all council-maintained playgrounds are tobacco-free zones and it is planned to extend this to parks and amenity areas.

Last year 56 complaints were made to environmental health officers about breaches of tobacco control and six convictions were secured for people lighting up where they should not, as well as over the sale of cigarettes to children.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, who launched the report with junior minister Frank Feighan, said: “Stopping smoking remains one of the best decisions a person can make for their health and the HSE Quit service is available to anyone who needs support to take that first step.”

He said the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill “will bring us closer to the goal of a tobacco-free Ireland and I am committed to its introduction.

“The bill will ban the sale of tobacco products at places or events intended for children and will prohibit the sale of tobacco products from self-service vending machines and temporary premises. We will also prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18.

“It is important that we use all the tools – legislative, educational and enforcement – to protect people from the harms of tobacco.”

Source: Independent