Smoking near children is an issue, writes Helen O’Callaghan.
A campaign to discourage smokers from lighting up or vaping, particularly around children and other young people, was launched recently in Limerick. ‘Not Around Us’ aims to promote an environment where it’s easier for those who smoke to quit and remain smoke-free, as well as helping to de-normalise smoking for the next generation.
Launched by Limerick City & County Council and Healthy Ireland, signs are being created for use in different settings — at school gates, in playgrounds, designated areas at festivals or at sports clubs.
National Tobacco Free Ireland Programme lead Martina Blake says it’s vital to de-normalise smoking for the next generation. “We know children model adult behaviour — those who witness smoking at home or outdoors are more likely to think smoking is normal adult behaviour and a rite of passage.
In the 2014 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children survey, 12% of children said adults are let to smoke in the house. A further 5% said there were no rules on smoking in their house. Fifteen per cent said adults were let a smoke in the family car as long as the window is down, and a further 3% said there were no rules on smoking in the car.
The Growing Up in Ireland Survey found disadvantaged children most likely to live in households with adults who smoke and they’re at greatest risk of exposure to second-hand smoke.
“One in three nine-year-olds in the lowest income families are exposed to secondhand smoke from their primary caregiver,” says Blake. She believes parents don’t know the scale of the danger to their children. “Second-hand smoke is a class A carcinogen. It’s a massive blight on the next generation.”
Tobacco Free Ireland urges local authorities/community groups to “take this de-normalisation agenda and make it real”. “Tobacco makes up 50% of all litter in Ireland and costs vast amounts to clean up — €69m in 2013. People drop cigarette butts and nobody challenges it.”
Another smoke-free initiative, Young Lungs at Play, was launched in Aughrim, Co Wicklow in April. New ‘Tobacco Free’ signs were placed in playgrounds/ outdoor amenity areas. The signs show contact details of free services for all adults seeking support to quit.