October 20, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
In 2011, New York City introduced a ban on smoking in Central Park, in addition to all of the city’s parks and beaches. This week London took a step closer to something like this, when it was suggested that smoking could be banned in Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and London Parks. How far could this go?
The suggestion came as part of a package of measures listed in a report by the city’s Health Commission, led by Lord Darzi, the former Health Minister and Cancer surgeon. Darzi was asked by Mayor Boris Johnson to come up with proposals to make London’s citizens healthier.
The report’s recommendations also include:
– Traffic light labelling on menus at restaurant chains with more than 15 outlets
– Planning guidance to prevent new junk food outlets opening within 400m (1,300ft) of schools
– A minimum 50p per unit price for alcohol in boroughs affected by problem drinking
– An acceleration of measures to reduce air pollution in the capital.
– Oyster card discounts for people who walk part of the way to work
But the headlines were grabbed by the idea of banning smoking in some outside public places in London, in addition to the ban on smoking indoor public places that has been in place for quite a while now. The Health Commission noted that around 1.2 million Londoners smoke, and, of more importance, 67 school children are taking up the habit every day.
It is interesting that, in the coverage of this policy, some blame for this worrying fact was put on the government policy of banning smoking in public places indoors. A member of the public, who backed the idea, noted that “The problem that occurred when they banned smoking inside is that it brought everyone outside so children now see lots of people smoking and it sets an awful example.”
Simon Clark, director of Forest, which is the organisation that campaigns for smokers’ rights, agrees that the problem was the ban on smoking inside but has a different policy prescription: “If the Chief Medical Officer doesn’t like people smoking in front of children she should lobby the government to introduce designated smoking rooms in pubs and clubs so adults can smoke inside in comfort.”
This may be another step towards the complete banning of smoking, and will cost quite a lot to monitor, but it seems that war continues to waged on smoking. Will anything work other than a complete ban? Is a complete ban fair? The debate continues.