Warren Hayden: It’s time to ban smoking at the school gates

Should smoking in play parks be banned?
Should smoking in play parks be banned?
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Is it about time the smoking ban went a step further? The answer is an unequivocal, straightforward, clear-cut ‘yes’.

Since July 2007 in England, smoking has been banned in all enclosed and ‘substantially enclosed’ public places and workplaces. Since then, there have been many reports claiming the ban has been a success.

In 2010, University of Bath researchers concluded there was a clear link between the smoking ban and a decreased rate of hospital admissions for heart attacks. Later, the same university also found that after the ban, asthma admissions dropped by 18.4 per cent for pre-school children and 20.8 per cent for those aged five to 14. Last year, I was pleased when it became illegal to smoke in any vehicle with any under-18s present.

I can’t get my head around why anyone would consider smoking in a car with a child present. It really does baffle me. Then again, it baffles me why anyone smokes in the first place, knowing what we know about how grave it can be for your health.

As a parent of two young daughters, it is obvious that I want them to grow up happy and healthy. This is why I am so pleased they were both born at a time when they don’t have to sit in a public indoor space and breathe in someone else’s disease-causing, second-hand cigarette smoke.

As much as I wish it wasn’t, I understand it is a person’s right to smoke in an outside public area, if they wish to do so. But I do think it is time to ban smoking in outdoor public places where there is a high concentration of children.

In the past few weeks I have been in a Portsmouth play park where children, including my own, were enjoying the slides, swings and climbing frames.

At the same time, a group of parents were standing in the park smoking, with their harmful smoke blowing across the park. Just last week, I was shocked and saddened to see a parent smoking a cigarette at the school gate where children were passing to start their school day. This wasn’t the first time.

According to the NHS’s website, breathing in second-hand smoke is particularly harmful to children and increases their risk of developing asthma and serious respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and even meningitis.

It’s not just the health implications that bother me but it also sets a bad example to children.

Of course, if smoking outside schools and in parks was to be banned, there is the question about how it could be enforced. Maybe education about the harm of smoking in the presence of children would be an easier option.

Meanwhile I’ll be educating my daughters that smoking certainly isn’t smart.

PLAYING FOR TIME AT THE END OF THE DAY

Bedtime, the time that can bring relief to parents but sadness and frustration to the child.

Most children don’t like bedtime. They want to stay up for as long as possible.

I’ve noticed that when it’s my time for peace and quiet and the land of nod is waiting for my two daughters, something strange happens.

Every night, just before I mutter the words that will send them upstairs and under their duvets, my six-year-old daughter Caitlin suddenly gets very chatty.

She wants to talk about anything and everything and it’s really difficult for me to get a word in edgeways.

She’ll tell me about her day at school and discuss what she learnt, who she worked with and even what she had for lunch. She goes into great detail.

I wonder if she’s showing signs of a love of talking and follow her dad into a radio-presenting career or does she know it’s almost bedtime and she is trying to play for time? I just don’t know which one to plump for?