Little Haven leads the way for smokefree beaches in Wales

This year saw Little Haven beach in Pembrokeshire become the first beach in Wales to go smokefree, which has gone a long way in helping to reduce the prevalence of smoking in-front of young children. 

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Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC) is unique as it is the home to the only coastal National Park in the UK and as a result has many beaches.

In 2014 PCC decided to revisit the Pembrokeshire Beach strategy, which has the main objective of ensuring that anyone making a visit to the beaches should have the best experience possible.

Looking at Brighton for inspiration, PCC wanted to establish whether they could implement smokefree beaches. This was not about promoting a smoke free environment but about ‘denormalisation’ and reducing the prevalence of smoking in-front of children to discourage young people from taking the habit up in the first place, as well as being supportive of  the recently developing health and wellbeing assessments in Wales through The Well Being of Future Generations Act.

PCC were also clear in deciding that the ban would be aimed at preventing people from smoking both tobacco containing products and e-cigarettes or similar products. The ban would also have to be voluntary as there are no enforcement controls, so winning over support would be crucial.

The county council were keen to kick things off by facilitating a pilot smokefree beach.

Tenby Town Council was approached as the first port of call because of its sandy beaches where kids could often be found and the fact that there are lots of beaches in the vicinity, which means if you were a smoker and not happy with the ban, there would be other beaches to visit nearby.

Unfortunately, Tenby was not enthused by the idea and the county council decided to assess Little Haven as an alternative as it was a family friendly area which was easy to survey and the area attracted regular visitors.

Similar to a Parish Council in England, The Havens Community Council were unanimously in favour of a smokefree beach when it was presented to them and in a great show of support, phoned the representatives from PCC the next morning after the presentation to get on-board with the scheme, which had unanimously received consent from the Community Council.

With local support in hand, Mark Elliott, Head of Public Protection for PCC, sought political support for the scheme, working with his Cabinet Member, Councillor Huw George, an enthusiastic supporter. Eventually, in October 2015 PCC’s Cabinet resolved to back the pilot smoke free beach.

The Little Haven scheme was officially launched on the beach on 9 March 2016, on exactly the same day as ‘No Smoking Day’ for 2016. At the launch event, PCC received lots of publicity and support for the smokefree beach and in a masterstroke of promotion, the event organisers had invited children from the local junior school and their numbers were the equivalent of how many young people in Wales take up smoking every day.

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Mark Elliott, Head of Public Protection, said that despite the initial scepticism of the scheme, there has been much support for smokefree beaches in Wales.

“I’ve spoken to lots of people who live and work close to Little Haven beach and they have been very enthusiastic about the ban,” said Mark Elliott. “For example, Mary Wightwright, who runs one of the local pubs to the beach and is also Chair of The Havens Community Council, told me that since the ban was introduced she hasn’t seen anyone smoking on the beach, which makes it look more appealing.”

Mark said that other positives stemming from the ban has meant that there is less litter, dangers to local wildlife have been reduced from ingesting cigarette butts and local businesses and tourist attractions have been given a boost as people have actively sought out the smokefree beach in Little Haven.

He added: “Recently I spent some time at Little Haven and I did not see anyone smoking and that not only included the beach but also the highway, pavements and the drinking areas outside of the local pubs.

“This is about behavioural change – helping to reduce the take up of smoking by children – and so far the ban has been welcomed by local and visitors alike.”

PCC are planning to review the ban next year and will go back to local businesses and the community in Little Haven to get their thoughts on whether their smokefree beach should continue.

For further information on Little Haven, contact Mark Elliott: markelliott@pembrokeshire.gov.uk  

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