A smokers’ rights group says a ‘voluntary ban’ on smoking in the Vale’s parks is a step too far.
Buckinghamshire County Council and Aylesbury District Council are piloting the Smokefree Parks initiative, which asks people to avoid lighting up when in parks or children’s play areas.
Signs will be installed asking park users to avoid smoking, and the county council’s public health team will be working with schools to increase awareness of the ban with children and parents.
Simon Clark, director of pro-smokers group Forest, said: “I think many smokers will feel aggrieved about this.
“When the smoking ban was introduced in 2007, we were told it was to protect bar workers from second-hand smoke, but now several local councils have introduced this new ban in outdoor areas.
“They shouldn’t get involved with something that’s nothing to do with them. People expect them to sort out our streetlights and our waste disposal.
“No where was it agreed that local councils should dictate when and where we smoke in the outdoors.”
But Amanda Sandford, research manager for anti-smoking group ASH, said: “Surveys show that smokefree measures are popular, especially among parents as they don’t want their children to smoke or to be exposed to other people’s smoke.
The smoke-free policy will reinforce the message that smoking is no longer the norm and is unacceptable in places where children play. It will also make the parks more attractive for all visitors.”
In a survey carried out for the county council earlier this month, 30 out of 32 people interviewed supported a voluntary ban.
Carl Etholen, the county council’s deputy cabinet member for health and wellbeing said: “We need to do everything we can to stop children getting positive messages about smoking, and this pilot initiative is a good first step in getting people to realise that smoking isn’t acceptable in places where youngsters play.
“It’s really positive that the parents we surveyed, including the smokers, were right behind a voluntary ban in such places.”
In a statement explaining the move, the county council added: “Smoking is smelly, expensive and bad for your health, so why do so many teenagers take up the habit?
“Evidence indicates that young people’s attitudes to smoking are influenced by various signals they get telling them that smoking is culturally acceptable - and even quite exciting.
“Positive attitudes to smoking instilled in childhood can help teenagers make the wrong decisions on smoking later on, especially with the additional effects of peer pressure – and so we get another generation of smokers.”