Two public squares in the English city of Bristol claim to be the country’s first to implement a voluntary outdoor smoking ban – but the organisation behind the scheme says it does not apply to e-cigs. Could this mean greater visibility for vapers?
Smokefree Southwest organised the voluntary ban in Bristol’s harbourside Millennium and Anchor squares, where it has placed signs which it hopes are polite but persuasive and will encourage self-policing. The locations are home to the At-Bristol interactive science museum as well as shops and restaurants.
But the ban also does not apply to e-cigarettes, a spokesperson said. This could make vapers more prominent in the two squares, leading to greater interest in e-cigs or changing perceptions of them.
“Some people are finding that vaping helps them to stop smoking tobacco, which has to be a good thing,” the spokesperson said, although they added that completely quitting nicotine would be preferable.
The programme will run for six months, at the end of which Smokefree South West will assess its impact on users of the plazas as well as the surrounding businesses and wider community, the spokesperson told ECigIntelligence.
“These city-centre squares are often full of children playing and this pilot will provide a smoke-free environment for kids and their families to enjoy,” said Fiona Andrews, director of Smokefree South West. “This is an exciting initiative that we hope will have a lasting impact on not just Millennium Square and Anchor Square, but the wider region and potentially the rest of the UK.”
It follows on from a similar project called Better Places to Play, which involved placing signs asking smokers to refrain from lighting up in or near playgrounds. Smokefree South West said that the campaign was successful, with just over a third of smokers stopping smoking in play parks with signs, based on testing undertaken by MSS Research.
However, only 11 of 15 businesses in the areas affected by the new initiative in Bristol city centre have agreed to go along with the voluntary ban, according to reports.
What This Means: It would be interesting to see how MSS conducted its effectiveness research. 34% seems a good result for the voluntary initiative; but it also seems unlikely that this second programme will achieve anywhere near that, without the immediate visibility of a children’s play area to awaken feelings of self-restraint in smokers.
However, it’s good to see Smokefree South West taking a wait-and-see-approach to e-cigs and not including them in the ban on conventional tobacco products, as so many others rush to do. The greater visibility that e-cigs will have in the squares might even inspire further curiosity about the new products among smokers, local media and policy-makers.
– Freddie Dawson ECigIntelligence staff
Photo: Luke Andrew Scowen