On the eve of the 10th anniversary of Donegal County Council’s playgrounds going tobacco free the Donegal Smoking Cessation Service, HSE in partnership with Donegal County Council are delighted to announce that compliance is very high with this initiative therefore protecting our children and denormalising the use of tobacco for future generations.

Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council Cllr. Seamus O’Domhnaill believes that Donegal was ahead of the curve in introducing Smoke Free Playgrounds in conjunction with the HSE Health Promotion and Improvement Unit saying “Donegal County Council was the first to introduce Smoke Free Playgrounds in Ireland in 2009 and the majority of other County Councils have since followed suit and I am delighted to see that 10 years on our playgrounds are still Smoke Free zones with a high level of compliance.  I am confident that this will have had a positive impact on children and young people in our communities.”

A baseline survey was carried out by Health Promotion and Improvement staff from the HSE in 2015 assessing compliance with Smoke Free Playground Signage and showed majority compliance with the four areas checked evidence of tobacco butts, matches, etc.; evidence of tobacco packaging; visual evidence of people smoking tobacco (or using e cigarettes) in the playground; bilingual Smoke free signage displayed, legible and secure.

Since 2017 Donegal County Council’s litter wardens have taken on this role. There is a litter warden assigned to each of the 5 municipal districts in Letterkenny, Stranorlar, Inishowen, Donegal and Glenties. Litter wardens have been visiting each playground weekly and carrying out the checks which they report on. They have also made good local contacts in each community with community members who can inform the Litter Wardens if there are any issues regarding the Playground. This information is inputted into their hand held app which is sent directly to a central location in Lifford. The results over the last year have shown that playgrounds are largely free of tobacco butts and packaging, matches, etc. Over the last 12months no one was found smoking in the park while the inspection was being completed.

Fiona Boyle, HSE Smoking Cessation Advisor in Donegal, commented “this initiative was developed in response to the significant amount of research available that if children see their parents, grandparents, older peers or carers using tobacco, they are more likely to experiment with this drug themselves or strive to be like their role models. The HSE approached Donegal County Council as they own and operate a large number of playgrounds throughout Donegal. The Council agreed to this project to promote smoke free environments where children play”.

ASH Ireland, the leading anti-tobacco advocacy organisation in Ireland, has also contacted County and City Councils throughout Ireland encouraging them to voluntarily introduce smoke free playgrounds and there has been a very positive response with most now having smoke free signage in place.

ASH Ireland states that ‘young people are influenced by the normalisation of tobacco use and when it is restricted for adults, especially in areas used by children, it helps to denormalise tobacco use. It also creates a cleaner environment as tobacco litter is well established as being our main urban waste and it is important that this waste doesn’t form part of our children’s play area’.

In March 2016 an assessment of the economic costs of tobacco was undertaken. It revealed that tobacco use bears a significant environmental cost as cigarette butts account for 55% of the main constituent elements of litter pollution and are estimated to have a cost to society of around €69 million a year.  Cigarette butts can take up to 12 years to breakdown, posing a danger to young children and animals that may swallow them in the meantime.

The Donegal Smoke Free Playground signage also provides contact details for anyone wishing to access the 13 free smoking cessation clinics throughout Donegal to assist them to quit tobacco. The clinics are in Buncrana, Carndonagh, Carrigart, Donegal Town, Dungloe, Falcarragh, Killybegs, Letterkenny, Lifford and Stranorlar. Donegal Smoking Cessation Service can be contacted on 074 91 04693.

Photo caption
Donegal County Council Litter Warders Martin Roarty, Brian Mc Brearty , Martin Burke and Owen Mc Callion along with Eamon Boyle, Executive Engineer, Donegal County Council and Fiona Boyle, HSE Smoking Cessation Advisor for Donegal Community

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