Portsmouth children unite to ask for a smoke-free play park

The Landport playpark off Arundel Street in Portsmouth. Picture by Malcolm Wells
The Landport playpark off Arundel Street in Portsmouth. Picture by Malcolm Wells
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PORTSMOUTH schoolchildren are asking adults to help make the city a healthier place with its first smoke-free play park.

Pupils from St John's Cathedral Catholic Primary School joined councillors and members of the city’s public health team today to unveil a new sign encouraging people not to smoke within the confines of Landport Playground on Arundel Road.

The official 'opening' was by Portsmouth City Councillors Matthew Winnington and Suzy Horton. Picture by Malcolm Wells

The official 'opening' was by Portsmouth City Councillors Matthew Winnington and Suzy Horton. Picture by Malcolm Wells

Year 3 student, Marsela Pervataj, eight, who designed the sign as part of a school competition said: ‘I didn’t know they were going to choose mine, I was amazed.

‘It’s bad for both the children and adults if people are smoking and the kids might get sick from it. It’s important for the children to have fun.’

Although the ban cannot be legally enforced it is hoped that it will deter people from both smoking and vaping on the site.

The council’s head of education, Cllr Suzy Horton, said: ‘This is a voluntary scheme that the children are asking the adults to adhere to. People would be more likely to listen to them than if it just came from the council.

‘It’s not just about making the area safer for the children, it is also about educating them on the risks of smoking. We know that parents and adults are role models. If children grow up without seeing them smoke in parks they are less likely to do it themselves.’

Her colleague and health boss, Cllr Matthew Winnington, agreed. ‘It’s really important for children to be able to play in areas where there aren’t people smoking,’ he said.

‘We know from research that if children see people smoking they are more likely to think it’s “cool” and try it themselves. Hopefully this will have an impact on the parents as well and encourage them to give up.’

A public survey was carried out by the council at the playground in August 2018 with 94 per cent of adults, both smokers and non, in favour of the scheme.

One of Marsela’s classmates, eight-year-old Bikita Hussein, added: ‘It will now be safer for kids to play in the park and they won’t be sick or unhealthy because of the smoke. And the parents will be healthier too.

‘When I play here I see lots of people smoking in the park.’

If the voluntary scheme proves successful there is scope for it to extend across other parks in Portsmouth.

It comes after it was announced that Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham will be a smoke-free site from January 14.

The hospital’s chief executive, Mark Cubbon, said: ‘Going smoke-free will mean a much more pleasant and safe environment for everyone who uses or works in our hospital  not to mention the improvements in health it will bring.’