A new campaign urging Norfolk’s parents not to smoke around their children has been condemned as “patronising” by a pro-tobacco group.
The Take Seven Steps Out initiative has been launched by Norfolk County Council in a bid to reduce the risks of second-hand smoke to youngsters.
And officials went to King’s Lynn yesterday to promote the scheme, through which they hope to encourage parents and carers to light up seven steps outside their homes, rather than inside.
Paul Smyth, chairman of the authority’s communities committee, said: “Many people probably don’t realise that most tobacco smoke is invisible and that it contains some 4000 chemicals, dozens of which are toxic.
“This is a simple, quick and cost free way to help protect children from harmful smoke, and to encourage people to make their homes smoke free. It could make a massive difference to children’s health.”
But Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ rights group Forest, said: “I think it’s incredibly patronising. Parents who smoke know full well that they have to be considerate if children are in the house. They don’t need the local council telling them how to behave.
“Are they going to be saying take 10 steps away in a few years’ time? Are they going to be banning smoking within the sight of a child?”
The campaign, which is planned to last for the next two years, will include radio and bus advertising, posters in pharmacies and doctors’ surgeries and briefing sessions for health professionals.
The authority claims that the rate of smoking-related hospital admissions in Norfolk is worse than the national average, while exposure to second-hand smoke costs the NHS nationally more than £23 million a year.
And Lucy Macleod, the council’s interim director of public health, said children were at increased risk of cot death, asthma, tonsilitis and glue ear through exposure to second-hand smoke.
She said: “We know that smoking is the biggest cause of early death, and of course, we want to encourage people to kick the habit completely.
“However, we know there are some people who don’t want to quit or find it very difficult to, so we’re targeting them to think about the health of others when smoking.”
But Mr Clark maintained the campaign was a waste of public money, adding: “We’re constantly hearing that local councils are living in an age of austerity. They’re now running a campaign that’s telling people how to behave and there’s no need for it.”
And readers have also been divided over the new initiative.
Dave Copeland said World Health Organisation research suggested exposure to second-hand smoke were less likely to develop lung cancer later in life.
He said: “Only the extremely gullible still believe that passive smoke poses any sort of health risk.
“But hey-ho. Why let science get in the way of a political agenda.”
Via Facebook, Grace Reeve said: “Most smokers I know go outside anyway and don’t smoke around their children.”
But Michelle Maynard said: “Patronising as it seems parents still smoke around their children knowing full well they are breathing the fumes in. I’ve seen it.”
And Kelly Plume agreed, adding: “All must know this info by now but many are just either to selfish or to stupid to care.”