Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Should Crawley Have Smoke-Free Zones?

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about how potentially, we could improve the environment of some of Crawley's premier outdoor spaces, by making them smoke-free. 
Our plans to make Queens Square a nicer place
"There is up to a seven year difference in life expectancy between the east and the west of Crawley, as well as big inequalities in health. These differences are matched by the variance in smoking rates between the east and west of the town. Smoking is the biggest single cause of preventable deaths in the UK and the overall smoking rate in Crawley is higher than the national average.
The health benefits are obvious but there are also other reasons to discourage smoking. Cigarettes and other smoking materials are the primary cause of fatal accidental fires in the home, a major cause of outdoor fires, and are the most common form of litter in the UK. Crawley has some lovely places but all too often, they can be spoiled by discarded cigarette ends. They seem to get replaced as fast as the Council can come round and sweep them up.

The city of Bristol has recognised this problem as well as that crucially; de-normalising smoking is the best way to stop young people taking up the habit and to help encourage smokers to quit. In February, Bristol launched voluntary smoke-free zones in two of their large city centre squares as a trial. I am interested in what Crawley residents think about me potentially advocating a policy to trial some of Crawley’s premier outdoor spaces as smoke free areas. Potential places for consideration would be the Memorial Gardens and Queens Square (not including the coffee shop outdoor seating areas), once the major improvement works are completed next year.
Following the regeneration, Queens Square will have interactive water features and will be an attractive place for families with children. I can see real potential for making Queens Square and the Memorial Gardens more pleasant environments for families if no one smoked. However, it is vital that any such schemes have public support in order to work. Therefore, before I discuss my idea with councillor colleagues to see whether or not we should consider advocating site-specific smoke-free zones, I would very much welcome your thoughts. Please do drop me a line at Duncan.crow@crawley.gov.uk"