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Wales bans smoking at hospitals, schools and playgrounds

Steven Morris
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Jeff Chiu/AP</span>
Photograph: Jeff Chiu/AP

Wales has become the first of the UK nations to make it illegal to smoke on hospital and school grounds, public playgrounds and other outdoor day care and childminding settings.

A penalty of up to £100 could be given to anyone breaking the law, which is aimed at helping to discourage people from starting smoking and to support those trying to quit.

The Labour-led government said it also hoped to protect more people from being exposed to secondhand smoke and reduce the chances of children taking up the habit by making it seem less normal.

In an effort to enforce the legislation and raise awareness of the smoke-free requirements, an audio-speaker system with a push-button pad is being installed at entrances at two hospitals in south Wales, the Grange University hospital in Cwmbran and the Royal Gwent in Newport.

Anyone who sees someone smoking on the site can press a button that will play a recorded message to remind people smoking is not permitted. Smoke-free enforcement officers employed by the health board will also be patrolling hospital grounds.

Matt Lloyd, who has been working as a one of Aneurin Bevan University Health Board’s smoke-free enforcement officers, said: “The majority of smokers stop when I approach them. I then remind them about our smoke-free environment policy and the new law.

“If somebody refuses to stop smoking, I talk to them about why we have the policy and the law. If they are a patient, I can contact their ward manager who will offer them nicotine replacement therapy.”

The Welsh minister for mental health and wellbeing, Eluned Morgan, said it was a proud day for Wales. She said: “We are immensely proud to have brought into force this law. We’ve seen the impact of the indoor smoking ban and we hope this will be similarly successful.”

Forest, a group that campaigns to protect the interests of adults who choose to smoke or consume tobacco, said the law was unnecessary and wrong.

Its director, Simon Clark, said: “The new law is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. There is no evidence that smoking in the open air poses a risk to anyone else’s health, including children. Nor is there evidence that a significant number of people are routinely lighting up in the places where smoking will now be prohibited.”

“Banning smoking on hospital grounds is particularly unjust because it targets smokers who may be stressed and in need of a comforting cigarette. Most smokers use their common sense and don’t smoke around small children. They don’t need politicians telling them how to behave.”