Friday, 8 April 2011

Park committee won't ban smoking

A children's park in the vicinity of Great Ormond Street Hospital has become the subject of a row following a campaign to get smoking banned.

The park extends over seven acres, and is for children only (i.e. children must accompany adults). The park's executive director made the following point.
“As you are aware Coram’s Fields serves some of the most disadvantaged people in the area and making it a non-smoking zone could mean their children, many of whom don’t have gardens, would not come to the park and therefore miss out.”
She was accused by the campaigner of belittling the intelligence of poor people. But she argued that a ban on smoking might lead to children being prevented from coming to the park. Further, the park was not an indoor environment.

As you might expect I don't have much sympathy with the campaign. A park is public property and everybody's rates maintain it. An outdoor smoking ban is punitive in a park, and the impact is felt by children as well as adults, if the ban prevents the adults from enjoying the park. Disadvantage can mean many things, not least that home life can be more stressful than many of us would like to imagine. Even if it isn't particularly stressful it is more than likely to be small, offering limited space for letting off steam. Restricting people who smoke from doing so in public areas (in seven-acre parks!) is simply inconsiderate. It has nothing to do with anybody's intelligence.

The park is there to maximise children's access to fresh air, exercise, space to run around, all of which improves their own quality of life and that of their parents and carers. It would be tragic if this amenity were disrupted for the sake of banning smoking. Well spoken, the executive committee of Coram's Fields!

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