Council's initiative to make play parks smoke-free zones
Smokers are being urged to protect young children by not lighting up in play parks as the summer season draws to a close.
An initiative launching this week by Smokefree South West hopes to deter people from smoking in Torbay's play areas, to safeguard children's health.
Park authorities across the English Riviera have agreed to sign up to a voluntary code discouraging people from lighting up inside their parks.
Five play zones will be covered by the smokefree code, which launches on Friday to coincide with Torbay Children's Week.
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A recent survey in the South West found almost 60% of people said smoking was a problem in their local park with 98% of those interviewed saying they would a support a voluntary ban on a complete smoking ban in such areas.
Debbie Stark, director of public health for Torbay, said: "We're really pleased that Torbay is sending out a clear message to discourage smoking in a number of children's play parks.
"Research shows that reducing child exposure to smoking decreases the uptake of smoking amongst young people in the long term. Children learn their behaviour from adults and so it's essential that in our communities tobacco use is not seen as part of everyday life."
As part of the initiative, signage has been developed to discourage people from smoking in play areas and requesting that children be allowed to play smoke free.
The initiative comes as smokers in Plymouth are being encouraged not to light cigarettes in their cars in order to protect children who may be travelling with them.
The Torbay scheme was developed by Smokefree South West in partnership with Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care NHS Trust and Torbay Council.
Councillor Chris Lewis, the authority's executive lead for health and wellbeing, said: "We're committed to the role our parks play in helping Torbay residents live active, healthy lifestyles.
"We're especially proud to be leading the way in Torbay in discouraging smoking around children in our play areas, helping to reduce the number of young people who smoke and reducing litter in the parks."
Smokefree South West, which campaigns to reduce smoking rates in the region, wants to highlight the risks of passive smoke exposure.
More than 80% of second-hand smoke is invisible, and contains 4,000 chemicals including harmful cancer-causing toxins and poisons.
Research shows children who live with smokers are at least twice as likely to become smokers themselves.
Nationally, 12% of children aged 11-15 currently smoke, with each puffing their way through an average 37 cigarettes per week.