Smokefree Playgrounds: Policy, practice, signage and bye-laws

Smokefree policy, practice, signage and bye-laws in playgrounds in Ireland

Joan Hanafin

Background

A target date of 2025 has been set for Ireland to become tobacco free, i.e., less than 5% of the population smoking (Department of Health, 2013). This target requires reducing prevalence of adult and child smoking, and preventing children from starting to smoke. A key recommendation of Tobacco Free Ireland is “to further develop the tobacco free playgrounds initiative in conjunction with the local authorities by voluntary measures or by the introduction of bye-laws” (Department of Health 2013, p.42). Moving towards smokefree zones where children congregate is an important step in de-normalising smoking, increasing its social unacceptability, and reducing prevalence. International research demonstrates that there is strong public support for tobacco free children’s playgrounds (Department of Health, 2013). Ireland’s first smokefree playgrounds were introduced in Donegal in 2010 and, since then, many County, City and Town Councils have introduced similar initiatives in playgrounds under their control (Department of Health, 2013; ASH Ireland, 2018). A previous survey carried out by ASH Ireland showed that a high percentage of City and County Councils had introduced such measures. This follow-up survey seeks to update earlier findings about City and County Councils’ policies, practices, signage and bye-laws regarding smokefree playgrounds under their control.

Methods

Sample

A list of the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Postal Addresses for all City and County Councils in Ireland was sought from the Local Government Management Agency. An Excel file was received from the Research & Innovation section of the Local Government Management Agency. Using this list, ASH Ireland wrote by post to all City and County Councils in Ireland on 14th May 2018 (n=31[1]) to ask them about their current policies, practices, signage, and bye-laws in relation to smokefree playgrounds under their control. Councils were informed that ASH Ireland continues to promote smokefree environments for children and adults. A follow-up letter was sent by email on 9th August 2018 to all councils from which a full response had not been received.

Response Rate

Fourteen full or partial responses were received from the first round and an additional 5 responses were received from the second round, giving a total of 19 out of 31 responses (61% response rate).

Data requested

Each Council CEO was asked to reply to the following questions:

1.     What percentage of the playgrounds under your control are entirely smokefree?

2.     If not 100%, has a decision been made to make the others smokefree and when can we expect this to be in place?

3.     You might also let us know please if your council has erected smokefree signage in the children’s playgrounds and, if not, we request that you would consider doing so.

4.     Have any changes been introduced to the park bye-laws, so as to legislate locally for smokefree playgrounds?

Results

1. What percentage of playgrounds under your control are smokefree?

Of the 19 responses received, 15 Councils replied that their playgrounds were 100% smokefree (48% of all Councils or 79% of those that responded). Two did not answer this question; one replied that they did not know what percentage of playgrounds was smokefree and were trying to find out; and one responded that none of the playgrounds under their control were smokefree.

2. If not 100%, has a decision been made to make the others smokefree and when can we expect this to be in place?

No council answered this question directly. One council replied that they were trying to find out the answer to this question (but more particularly to questions 1 and 3).

3. Has your council erected smokefree signage in the children’s playgrounds and, if not, we request that you would consider doing so.

Sixteen Councils (52%) reported that they had erected signage. Ten (32%) had erected signage in all playgrounds. Six (19%) had erected signage in some of the children’s playgrounds. Two Councils reported that all playgrounds would have signage completed during the coming months. One Council reported that 10 out of 14 playgrounds under their control had signage and that the Council “will consider extending the Smokefree Policy to the remaining 4 playgrounds”. One Council reported that all new signage includes “no smoking information”, and they included with their response an image of their signage which incorporates a no-smoking icon (no text). One Council did not know but was trying to find out what percentage of children’s playgrounds have no-smoking signage.

4. Have any changes been introduced to the park bye-laws, so as to legislate locally for smokefree playgrounds?

i.         Five Councils (16%) reported that they had introduced bye-laws to legislate locally for smokefree playgrounds.

ii.         One council reported that they did not have any bye-laws.

iii.         Twenty-seven Councils did not provide any information about bye-laws to legislate locally for smokefree playgrounds. This low response rate included Councils that provided information about the other questions asked.

iv.         One Council reported that they were working towards “having revised Bye-Laws being introduced which would ban smoking at public playgrounds”.

v.         One Council reported that they employ Community Wardens who have the power to enforce the Litter Pollution Act 1997 and provides a LoCall Environmental Hotline for members of the public to report littering.

vi.         Additionally, that Council reported that their Environment section “receives complaints from time to time re littering (including cigarette butts) in playgrounds”.

vii.         One other Council reported that Parks Bye-Laws have been enforceable since 1st September 2014 which apply to all Parks, Playgrounds, playing pitches and MUGAs and that appropriate signage has been erected in all of the parks and playgrounds with a view to notifying the general public of the bye-laws.

Summary, Conclusion, Recommendations

Of 31 City and County Councils surveyed by ASH Ireland during the period May-August 2018, 61% (n=19) responded, in two rounds. City and County Councils that responded to the survey were positive about implementing Smokefree playgrounds under their control.

·      48% (n=15) reported that playgrounds under their control were smokefree.

·      52% (n=16) had erected signage; 32% (n=10) in all playgrounds and ~20% (n=5) in some or most playgrounds under their control.

·      16% (n=5) said that they had bye-laws in place to prohibit smoking in playgrounds.

More needs to be done to increase the number of City and County Council-controlled smokefree playgrounds. Efforts to increase smokefree outdoor areas should be informed by research findings asserting that, for policy implementation and compliance, establishing the public health evidence for policy change is critical to engaging diverse stakeholders with varied tobacco-related interests (Leung et al., 2013).

Benefits of Smokefree playgrounds

Research from the UK, US, Australia, Canada and other countries suggest many benefits of smokefree playgrounds[2]. Smokefree playgrounds are desirable for reasons of denormalisation and positive role modelling, reducing the prevalence of smoking, avoidance of secondhand smoke dangers, and environmental benefit. Smokefree playgrounds are justified as the toxicity of smoke is a nuisance to many and poses a health risk to others. Smokefree playgrounds help users to quit smoking. There is wide public support for smokefree legislation in general and for smokefree playgrounds in particular. Smokefree playgrounds:

·      continue the denormalisation of tobacco and help reduce smoking prevalence among adults and children.

·      communicate a positive message that tobacco use is not compatible with an active, healthy lifestyle and that tobacco use and sports do not mix.

·      protect children and their carers from the harmful effects of exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a human carcinogen for which there is no safe level of exposure. Even in outdoor settings, secondhand smoke levels can reach levels as high as those found in indoor facilities where smoking is permitted. Secondhand smoke causes heart disease, cancer, respiratory problems, and ear infections, and worsens asthma. Exposure to secondhand smoke is especially harmful to children and adults with asthma or other chronic conditions. Children, older adults, people with special health needs, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the health risks caused by secondhand smoke exposure, even in outdoor environments. Tobacco-free parks and beaches provide families and children with healthy environments in which they are not exposed to the negative health effects of secondhand smoke.

·      enhance support for community users to quit smoking.

·      enhance users’ enjoyment of clean air and health activities.

·      reduce cigarette litter. Discarded cigarette butts pollute the land and water and are highly toxic and dangerous to children, domestic animals, and wildlife. Small children are at risk of swallowing, choking or burning themselves with discarded butts and suffering nicotine poisoning.

·      reduce maintenance costs and fire risks. Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world and they are not biodegradable. Carelessly discarded cigarette butts are a frequent cause of fires, especially during periods of dry weather.

Recommendations for promoting smokefree playgrounds in Ireland

·      Public health campaigns should include a focus on the benefits of smokefree playgrounds to children, parents and others using these facilities (see above).

·      City and County Councils that have made efforts to make playgrounds under their control smokefree should be noted and commended.

·      Examples of good practice regarding smokefree playgrounds should be collated and circulated.

·      Those Councils that have not yet made playgrounds under their control smokefree should be encouraged to do so.

·      Those Councils that have not yet erected smokefree signage in playgrounds under their control should be encouraged to do so.

·      Councils appear to be receptive to guidance regarding signage. Several Councils attached with their survey responses examples of their signage. A range of signage suggestions could be made available to all Councils based on best practice. This would help Councils to avoid “re-inventing the wheel” and perhaps facilitate wider implementation of smokefree signage in playgrounds.

·      Some Councils appear to be receptive to guidance regarding bye-laws. Examples of good practice could be circulated to all Councils.

·      Playgrounds not under the control of City and County Councils should be informed of good smokefree practices and encouraged to implement smokefree playgrounds and to erect appropriate signage.

·      Regarding health inequalities, social class differences persist in smoking prevalence and may also exist in how playgrounds are used. Evidence[3] from other countries suggests that consideration should be given to ways of allocating sufficient resources to enhance voluntary compliance so that smokefree playground policies and bye-laws do not contribute to health inequalities.

References

ASH Ireland (2018). https://ash.ie/ash-campaigns/smoke-free-playgrounds/

Cancer Council Queensland (2018). The Benefits of Introducing Smoke-Free Public Places. Available at  https://cancerqld.blob.core.windows.net/site/content/uploads/2016/12/Local-Government_Smoke-free-public-places-benefits_FACTSHEET.pdf

Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition (2018). Benefits of Tobacco-Free Parks and Outdoor Recreation Facilities. Available at http://smokefreecapital.org/wp-content/uploads/Benefits_FAQ_rev2016.pdf

Department of Health (2014). Healthy Ireland. A Framework for Improved Health and Well-Being 2013-2025. Dublin: Department of Health. Available at https://health.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/HealthyIrelandBrochureWA2.pdf

Department of Health / Healthy Ireland (2013). Tobacco Free Ireland. Report of the Tobacco Policy Review Group. Dublin: Department of Health. Available at

https://health.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/TobaccoFreeIreland.pdf

Kruger, J., Jama, A., Kegler, M., Marynak, K., & King, B. (2016). National and State-Specific Attitudes toward Smoke-Free Parks among U.S. Adults. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(9), 864. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13090864. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5036697/pdf/ijerph-13-00864.pdf

Leung, R., Mallya, G., Dean, L. T., Rizvi, A., Dignam, L., & Schwarz, D. F. (2013). Instituting a Smoke-Free Policy for City Recreation Centers and Playgrounds, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2010. Preventing Chronic Disease, 10, E116. http://doi.org/10.5888/pcd10.120294 Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3711557/

MDHHS (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services) (2018). Why parks and beaches should be tobacco free. Available at https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-71550_2955_2973-340373–,00.html

NHS Scotland (2009?). Smoke-Free Playgrounds in Glasgow. A Literature Review. Glasgow: NHS. Available at http://library.nhsggc.org.uk/mediaAssets/CHP%20Inverclyde/Smokefree%20Playgrounds.pdf

Pederson, Ann et al., (2016). Smoking on the margins: a comprehensive analysis of a municipal outdoor smoke-free policy. BMC Public Health 16:852

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/S12889-016-3466-2

Available at https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12889-016-3466-2

Endnotes

[1] On the Excel mailing list received from the Local Government Management Agency, 5 assistant chief executives of Dublin City Council were listed in addition to the chief executive. These 6 officers of Dublin City Council were included in the mailing in the interests of communicating with all officers named on the list. A total of 36 surveys were sent out, therefore, to a total of 31 City and Council offices. (No response has been received to date from any of the offices of Dublin City Council.)
[2] See, for example, Cancer Council Queensland (2018); Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition (2018); Leung et al. (2016); NHS Glasgow (2009); Pederson et al. (2016).
[3] See, for example, Pederson et al. (2016).

Joan Hanafin, October 2018