Smoke free parks, bus stops and high street among proposals to deal with Doncaster's high rates of smoking
Health bosses in Doncaster have told of plans for ‘smoke free spaces’ across the borough to deal with levels of smoking that are among the highest in the UK.
The proposals have been confirmed as official figures rank Doncaster as having the sixth highest proportion of residents who smoke in the UK, and third in Yorkshire.
But they have been delayed by the Covid 19 crisis.
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics estimated 19.1 per cent of adults in Doncaster smoked in 2019, down from 19.6 per cent in 2018.
Dr Victor Joseph, consultant in public health at Doncaster Council said this week: “We are aware that the rate of smokers in Doncaster has been high, but we continue to work hard to address the issue.
"We have a local stop smoking service in place as well as a programme to help smokers quit while in hospital. We have also conducted a peer review exercise to identify areas of strengths and areas for improvement. We were planning to carry out an initiative of smoke free spaces in Doncaster but this has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A report which was published by Doncaster Council has previously stated that the authority had committed to reducing smoking prevalence to 10 per cent by 2021.
Smoking prevalence for all ages has decreased, from 25.8 per cent in 2011.
The document said in the authority’s own consultation, most people agreed or strongly agreed with proposals for designated voluntary smoke-free spaces, for example 94 per cent (320 responses) for schools, 85 per cent (291 responses) for hospital grounds and 83 per cent (282 responses) for council family-friendly events.
It stated: “We have identified a range of ways in which we could encourage smoke-free spaces to inspire a smoke-free generation through de-normalising smoking and making it less visible, thereby reducing the number of children and young people who decide to start.
“We suggest that we start with trialling and developing smokefree spaces in a staged way.”
The proposed first stage would be play parks and park events, schools and school gates, hospital grounds and family-friendly council events
Stage two was suggested as outdoor eating and drinking areas, pedestrianised areas in town centre, and parks. Stage three was suggested as other council events; with bus stops, railway station and the airport suggested for a fourth phase.
A proposed fifth phase would have been smoke-free high streets and markets markets.
Smoking rates have fallen in the borough every year since 2016, when 19.8 per cent of those aged 18 and over smoked.
Throughout the UK, the proportion of smokers has fallen every year since 2011, reaching a record low of 14.1 per cent in 2019.
The ONS estimates a further 28.3 per cent of adults have quit smoking in Doncaster, with the remaining 52.6 per cent saying they had never done so. It gives Doncaster ‘quit rate' of 3.3 per cent.
Men were more likely to smoke than women – 21.3 per cent of men were smokers, compared to 17 per cent of women.
Do Doncaster’s smokers want to give up?
Smokers this week told the Doncaster Free Press how they had started smoking – and most admitted they now wanted to give up but had struggled to do so..
Andy Rycroft, aged 33, from Balby, said he had started smoking aged 17, and described himself as a perpetual quitter, when it came to cigarettes.
He said: “I want to quit, but I’ve not got the discipline. I can’t remember now what the circumstances were in which I started – it was probably the usual thing, thinking it was cool, which it’s clearly not. There’s nothing cool about giving yourself a cough.
"I would like to give up. I’ve tried vaping, but that didn’t work. I think I’d like something to control the habit, rather than the nicotine, because that’s what it is for me, a habit.”
Gareth Isle, aged 40, from Westwoodside, said he had been smoking for 20 years, and could not remember what got him started smoking.
"I’ve stopped off and on, but I’ve always started again,” he said. “I’m not sure I really like it but I think it is a habit. It is also something that means you get out of the office for some fresh air.
"I think more people are vaping now, but I think it is really just about will power. I have given up in the past, but just started again.”
Alex Bekin, aged 39, from Hyde Park said: “I want to stop, but I’ve not been able to yet. What has worked for me in the past has been medication that they can give that takes away the urge to smoke, but that gave me a low mood. But I smoke with a pint, and I enjoy it, but then regret it. I really would like to give up for health reasons.”
Saffron Bell, aged 23, from Scawsby, said she started smoking when she was 15. and said she thought it was cool at the time.
"I don’t think that any more,” she said. “Now I’d like to give up. I’ve tried giving up before, but found I put weight on. There are stopping smoking services I think, and I would like to stop.”
Not all want to give up though. Glen Dart, aged 63, from Hyde Park, said he had been smoking since he had been a 10-year-old.
He said: “I say I’ve got freedom of choice to smoke – I want to smoke. I may be addicted to them, but I like cigarettes. I find it sociable. You can sit and smoke together. That’s all right.”