Smokers could be banned from lighting up outside Sheffield’s public buildings, under proposals to be put to residents.
Council chiefs are considering whether to ban lighting up outside hospitals and other NHS buildings, universities, council offices and leisure centres – and they are seeking the public’s views on the proposal.
The smokers’ lobby group Forest is opposed to the plans, accusing the council of ‘harassing’ smokers.
But shoppers on the streets of Sheffield this week were split on this and other plans to reduce smoking.
Out of 14 people quizzed in the city centre – including current and ex-smokers – 11 were in favour, two opposed and one undecided.
The council – which this summer banned smoking in playgrounds – has proposed extending the restrictions to cover more outdoor spots and events like the half marathon and Skyride cycling fesival because it says young people are more likely to start smoking if they see others puffing away.
The council’s draft Tobacco Control Strategy, which will run from 2017-2022, also includes plans to:
n Cut funding for stop-smoking services and spend that money on preventing people starting in the first place
n Expand its smoking prevention programme to all secondary schools, as well as rolling it out to primary schools
n Promote the use of e-cigarettes to help people quit
The council claims it has supported around 3,000 smokers a year to quit since 2003 but an estimated 79,200 Sheffielders still smoke and tobacco kills around 16 people across the city each week.
It says demand for the stop-smoking service has fallen recently, with more people choosing to quit independently, which is why it wants to spend more of its £1.1m tobacco control budget on prevention.
Councillor Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure, said: “Smoking is still the biggest killer, the biggest burden to public health and a major cause of health inequalities.
“We want to reduce smoking prevalence in line with other world leaders in this area. Places such as New York, California and Australia, for example, have implemented extensive tobacco control programmes and as a result have seen impressive reductions in their smoking prevalence compared to England.”
Forest, which claims to represent the rights of smokers across the UK, branded the proposals ‘pathetic’.
Its director Simon Clark said: “Banning smoking outside public buildings, even hospitals, is rather pathetic. Tobacco is a legal product. As long as they are considerate smokers should be allowed to light up outside.”
He claimed smoking in the open air did not harm anyone else’s health and said a nationwide poll this year showed tackling smoking was seen by the public as a low priority for local government, behind reducing crime, improving roads and investing in better facilities for young people.
“The council needs to get its priorities right. Tackling smoking and harassing smokers should not be one of them,” he added.
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), which campaigns to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco, said the council should not be cutting support for existing smokers.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: “We welcome Sheffield Council’s commitment to a smoke-free city, and we understand the severe budget pressures the Council is under. But if Sheffield really wants to take a comprehensive evidence-based approach then it’s not going the right way about it.
“Work in schools has not been shown to be effective or cost-effective and media campaigns work best when undertaken at regional and national rather than local level.
“Smoking rates are already falling much faster among children than among adults and Sheffield’s priority should be to help addicted adult smokers quit by providing the help they need from stop smoking services and better enforcement to reduce access to cheap and illicit tobacco.”
n To have your say on the proposals, visit https://sheffield.citizenspace.com.