IT IS seven years since the smoking ban came into force in Britain.

From July 1, 2007, anyone caught smoking in pubs, bars, restaurants and other public buildings in the country were breaking the law.

Virtually all enclosed places and workplaces were included in the initiative to create a smoke-free Britain, ensuring a healthier environment without being exposed to second-hand smoke.

The restrictions have, no doubt, made an impact with some deciding to quit but others simply don’t want to stub it out. They don’t want to break the habit and and there are those that would argue why should they?

However, restrictions could soon be tightened further and places where smokers could enjoy a drag look set to diminish should proposals to ban smoking in public open spaces eventually come into force.

Initially focusing on London, the suggestion to create smoke free zones around the capital’s parks and squares in the Better Health for London report could provide a blueprint for the rest of the country – according to its author, the pioneering cancer surgeon and former health minister Lord Darzi.

Over the past year Lord Darzi has led a panel of experts and involved 15,000 people in developing the plan which proposes a raft of measures to combat the threats posed by tobacco, alcohol, obesity, lack of exercise and pollution which harms millions.

Lord Darzi points out that two classrooms full of schoolchildren take up smoking every day. “Hundreds of children take up smoking every week – two classrooms full a day – with advertising outlawed they do so inspired by the adults that they see. Once they start, they continue, since cigarettes are more addictive than narcotics. It’s little surprise that in places where more adults smoke, more children begin smoking too.”

Chief medical officer Professor Sally Davies emphasised the role modelling effect of adults smoking in front of children.

“We all know smoking is bad for health. So I welcome any measures to reduce both active smoking and its role modelling in front of children.”

Lord Darzi says just as smokers lungs are polluted, the lungs of our city – our parks and green spaces – are polluted by smoking. He urges London to lead the way for Britain by making our public spaces smoke free.

Each year in Bradford, ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) estimates smoking costs society £125m. Care in later life of ex-smokers amounts to £10.4 million – £5.9m in costs from the Local Authority and £4.4m to individuals self-funding their care.

Campaigns such as the current Stoptober event – where people can sign up to stop smoking for 28 days – are encouraging those who want to attempt to quit.

Last year 250,000 in England and Wales participated in the challenge. More than 1,000 participants from Bradford participated in the campaign resulting in 1,256 successful quit attempts.

Approximately eight million people in England smoke (10 million across the UK).

The tobacco control plan sets up an ‘ambition’ to reduce smoking prevalence among all adults in England to 18.5 per cent by 2015.

Most smokers have tried to quit and failed before. While there are almost five million attempts to quit each year in England, around seven per cent of quitters succeed in stopping for one year.

Smoking is the biggest cause of premature death in England and in the district. Every year more than 750 people die as a direct consequence of smoking.

While smoking rates have declined over past decades, smoking is still the biggest cause of premature deaths in the country accounting for more than 80,000 deaths in England a year and one in two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking disease.

However, not everyone welcomes the prospect of parks and open spaces becoming smoke-free. Some have likened it to another example of the so-called ‘nanny state.’ “I think it is more or less unenforceable,” says Councillor Simon Cooke, Bradford Council’s health and well-being board member.

“I think it is a step too far in this nanny state stuff. I think they have gone too far on this.

He says while those who want to stop smoking should be helped, he believes the proposal to ban smoking in parks and squares in London is ‘a step too far.’ “I wouldn’t support it under any circumstances,” he adds.