DUBLIN CITY COUNCILLOR Steve Wrenn is to put forward a motion next month, proposing a citywide ban on smoking in playgrounds.
Wrenn, who works with the HSE as a child protection officer, told TheJournal.ie today that he has asked the city manager to impose the ban across Dublin’s 109 playgrounds.
He said his proposal involves establishing a working group with the council and the HSE in order to achieve smoke-free playgrounds in 47 parks and 62 housing/flat complexes.
Wrenn is a qualified smoking cessation specialist who runs free group courses in various locations across Dublin every week. He also volunteers his expertise to the HSE Smoking Cessation division.
“I volunteer my services but it is separate to my work on the council,” he says, adding that he does not advertise the four-week courses under his councillor title.
It is not about political gain. It is something I am very passionate about after my father passed away from a smoking-related illness.
Wrenn believes that the HSE and the Department of Health need to come up with more preventative approaches to smoking.
“I recently tested the carbon monoxide readings of a seven-year-old boy whose mother smokes in her back garden away from the child. The reading was three times higher than a child living in a non smoking environment,” recalled the councillor. “Imagine the damage done to children by smokers who smoke in their cars with their children or at home in front of them.
We might not be able to enforce a law banning people from smoking in their cars with children but as councillors we can pass a worth while motion banning smoking in playgrounds.
The City Manager has acknowledged that banning smoking in playgrounds would “go some way” to helping continue the awareness raising of the need not to smoke around children.
It may also have the unintended consequence of reducing opportunities for play for children whose parents wish to smoke, added the manager.
Responding to a question from Wrenn, he added:
A smoking ban could in a small number of cases mean these children are kept inside while parents smoke (increasing further their exposure to passive smoke) or they may be left out to play unsupervised before they are ready.
Wrenn is planning to write to each councillor ahead of the May meeting to garner support for his proposal.
Yesterday, Health Minister James Reilly said that he wishes to follow New York City’s lead and ban smoking in certain public areas, such as parks, playgrounds, beaches and sports fields.
According to reports in the Irish Examiner and Irish Times, Reilly told the Irish Heart Foundation’s Stroke Council that he wanted to denormalise smoking for children.
Such bans will be discussed at Cabinet level but they may also be implemented by local authorities.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald echoed the sentiments of her colleague as she welcomed proposals for a ban on smoking in arenas where children are present.