Taking a lead in public health: Swansea’s smoke-free public spaces

2016 saw Caswell Bay become smoke-free, further consolidating Swansea’s efforts to introduce smoke-free environments across the authority.  

Previous research has indicated that a majority of people in Wales agree with a smoking ban in communal recreational spaces such as parks and beaches.

Prior to Caswell Bay going smoke-free, City and County of Swansea Council (Swansea Council) had made significant efforts to implement smoke-free environments across Swansea. The driver has coincided with Swansea becoming a WHO Healthy City in 2010, with the authority becoming part of a global network of cities dedicated to tackling health inequalities and striving to put health improvement and health equity at the core of all local policies.

In particular, Swansea Council focused their efforts on creating smoke-free environments in the interests of children to discourage young people from smoking in later life, protect them from second-hand smoke and supporting those who want to give up.

‘Smoke free home’ was set up to support parents and caregivers to make their homes smoke-free to protect their children, with the council providing resources on their website. Children's play areas in parks across Swansea have also been declared smoke-free in an effort to protect the children who play there. The ban is voluntary and special signs having been erected at all the play areas asking adults not to smoke.

Following the success of Swansea’s smokefree playgrounds, in 2014 the council’s Health Promotion unit working with Trading standards turned their attention to making Swansea’s world-famous beaches free from smoke.

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Swansea has renowned coastlines with four of its beaches awarded blue flag status. However, smoking has proved problematic due to toxic cigarette butts being discarded on the beaches causing litter problems and spoiling the environment along with poisoning marine wildlife.

In addition, the beaches attract many young people and Swansea Council wanted to protect them from the dangers of secondhand smoke, as well as setting a positive example.

As a result, Caswell Bay was identified to pilot a trial smoke-free beach for the 2016 summer season. This was supported by the Local Health Board and Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Mark Child, as it would help provide children and young people with the right to play in a clean and healthy environment, as well as ‘de-normalising’ smoking, i.e. driving it out of sight from children so it wasn’t seen as normal behaviour. 

ASH Wales was another supporter of the scheme and made clear that driving smoking out of sight from young people was a positive step as young people consistently over-estimate the prevalence of smoking and 60% think it is the norm because they see it around then every day. 

Earlier this year on 27 April, Swansea Council launched the smokefree beach jointly with the Directorate of PLACE, Housing and Public Protection, Trading Standards and the Health Promotion division.

The ban was voluntary and signs were erected at the entrance asking visitors to co-operate and help keep the beach smoke free. 

Councillor Mark Child, Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Healthy City, said: “Early indications suggest Caswell Bay going smoke-free has been well supported by the public, particularly as it sets a positive example to young people and improves the cleanliness of the beach.

“As part of our commitments to the Healthy City initiative, we want to see even more smoke-free environments being introduced across Swansea. We will therefore continue to provide support to those who want to influence positive behaviours and protect health and wellbeing.”

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