The public are to be asked whether they want a smoking ban on beaches and in parks in Brighton and Hove.
Despite some reservations, the Brighton and Hove Health and Wellbeing Board agreed to a 12-week consultation.
A report to the board said: “Smoking is still one of the city’s leading causes of premature death.”
The results of the consultation are expected to be reported to the board in December.
Tom Scanlon, the director of public health, said that the proposal before the board meeting, at the Brighthelm Centre, was just to carry out a consultation.
Dr Scanlon said: “It took me a little by surprise – the level of interest in it.”
Councillor Geoffrey Theobald and Councillor Ken Norman pointed out that any ban would not be legally enforceable.
They noted that people still barbecued on the beach in defiance of byelaws and cycled on pavements despite it being against the law.
Councillor Theobald said: “If we are going to consult on this, I think we should make it clear it could only be voluntary.
“I’ve never smoked in my life and I’m very against smoking but I just think if people are going to vote for this in a consultation, they need to know you cannot enforce this.”
He said: “We had consultations on making beaches dog-free and it wasn’t very easy.”
And he added: “I fear we could end up with arguments on the beach between people who are smoking and who aren’t smoking.”
But Dr Scanlon said that voluntary smoking bans worked well in 42 children’s play areas across Brighton and Hove.
He said: “It will be voluntary and will be done by signage. We already have some voluntary schemes in children’s play areas and they do seem to be widely observed.
“I think most people are well behaved when they see signage. There will be no one going around issuing spot fines or calling the police.”
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty said: “I don’t know what kind of people you know but in my experience not many people follow anything that signs say.
“In my ward one of the big problems we face at this time of year are barbecues.”
There were lots of signs, he said, but there should be serious discussions about strengthening the enforcement of existing legislation.
He added: “Smoking is still killing far too many people and hurting far too many people. I’m up for it.”
Councillor Karen Barford asked whether the consultation could be clear about a possible ban covering parks as well as beaches. She wanted to know whether the public had a preference for a ban covering one type of public open space or both.
Christa Beesley, the chief clinical officer at Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said that she treated people who were suffering the ill-effects of smoking and they were often very ill.
Dr Beesley said: “Anything that helps people stop smoking gets my vote.”
She said that the fewer places there were where people could breathe in smoke would be helpful for those who had given up smoking as it could be a powerful addiction.
CCG chief executive Geraldine Hoban referred to the smoking ban in children’s play areas.
She said that, as a mother of three small children, it would be considered very unacceptable for people to smoke where children played, adding: “Without it being enforceable, you can set a level of expectation.”
Darren Emilianus, a GP in Woodingdean, said: “In some ways I’d like to see more of this sort of thing.”
Dr Emilianus said: “Profit-driven companies make it far too easy to be unhealthy. I’d like to see it more easy to be healthy than unhealthy. What’s the cost-benefit?”
Councillor Dan Yates, who chairs the Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “This is a really difficult subject to get into. Can we ban something when we can’t really enforce a ban? Is there a public appetite for it?”
He said that the board wouldn’t know unless it asked the public and added: “You can only govern with the benefit of the support of the people.”
He also said: “We’ve got to have something that’s workable even if it’s not enforceable.”
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