Public consultation set for Brighton beach smoking ban plan
The first step has been taken towards making Brighton beach a smoke-free zone.
Brighton and Hove City Council's health and wellbeing board agreed that a 12-week public consultation should start from tomorrow to gauge people's views on the idea.
If the proposals go-ahead, they would reportedly make the seaside city the first in Britain to ban people from lighting up on the shore.
The city already has a voluntary ban on smoking in its 42 children's play areas, but now the city's beaches and parks could become smoke-free too.
The council said the aim was to create an environment free from second-hand smoke, particularly for children.
Officials cited the higher risk of respiratory infections, asthma, bacterial meningitis and cot death for children exposed to passive smoke.
Second-hand smoke has been linked to around 165,000 new cases of disease among children in the UK each year, they added.
But the move towards widening smoke-free areas in the city has drawn criticism from smokers' group Forest.
Director Simon Clark said: "Smokers should smoke responsibly, with consideration for others around them, but extending the smoking ban to open spaces is unnecessary, unjust and another attack on individual freedom.
"There's no evidence that smoking in the open air is a risk to the health of anyone other than the smoker."
He added: "Tobacco is a legal product. Smokers pay over £10 billion annually in tobacco taxation, a sum that far exceeds the alleged cost of treating smoking-related diseases.
"These persistent attacks on people's lifestyle, and the unfounded scaremongering about the risk to others, must stop."
A national smoking ban on workplaces and enclosed public areas was introduced in July 2007, and in October tobacco-smoking in cars carrying children will also be outlawed in England.
Smoking is the primary cause of premature death and preventable illness in the UK and is attributed to more than 80,000 deaths a year.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the health charity Ash (Action on Smoking and Health), said the move could be good for the environment as well as health.
"A growing number of local authorities and other organisations are exploring ways of providing more smoke-free public places in response to public demand," she said.
"Football grounds and railway stations are already smoke-free, and increasingly children's play areas are going smoke-free too.
"Smoke-free beaches could provide a safe and pleasant environment, particularly for children, but also for adults who want to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke, as well as reducing the amount of cigarette butt litter on beaches, which doesn't degrade quickly and is harmful to wildlife."
In Brighton and Hove, some 25.2% of people smoke, higher than the national average of around 18%.
Smoking is one of the city's leading causes of premature death and health problems, officials said.
Councillor Daniel Yates, chair of the city's health and wellbeing board, said: "The health benefits of smoke-free areas and protecting children from second-hand smoke are well established.
"We're keen to keep people safe from the effects of smoking in public areas, especially children who are most vulnerable. However, we also want to ensure any measures taken have support of residents in the city."
Dr Tom Scanlon, Brighton and Hove's director of public health, said: "Tobacco smoke typically contains over 170 toxins including carcinogens and air pollutants.
"The benefits of smoke-free indoor areas are well established and accepted.
"Outdoor tobacco smoke dissipates more quickly than indoor smoke, but in certain concentrations and weather conditions it still poses an additional health risk to non-smokers.
"Several states in the US have adopted legislation to limit outdoor smoking in certain settings such as cafes, parks and places where there are children playing.
"The time is right to have the debate in Brighton and Hove as to whether we wish the same here."
Some residents said the move would infringe people's right to smoke, and raised doubts over how any ban could be enforced on beaches and in parks.
Gerald Carey, 82, said: "I think it's a bit too far. There is so much open space. I don't think anyone would notice. Over the past few years, it has never been mentioned. How could they control it?"
Max James, 17, said: "On the one hand people don't like the idea of smoking but I think it's wrong to get rid of someone's right to smoke.
"They will just do it somewhere else anyway. And plus, a beach is not necessarily a place to enforce a ban. It doesn't belong to anyone. It's stupid and absurd."