Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head Head to Head

Is a smoking ban in UK parks and outdoor spaces a good idea?

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 25 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h958
  1. Ara Darzi, director, Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London and former chair, London Health Commission,
  2. Oliver P Keown, clinical advisor and policy fellow, Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London, 10th floor, QEQM Building, St Mary’s Hospital, London W2 1NY, UK,
  3. Simon Chapman, professor, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Australia
  1. Correspondence to: O P Keown o.keown{at}, S Chapman simon.chapman{at}

Ara Darzi and Oliver P Keown want a ban to help smokers quit and to protect children from seeing people lighting up. But, argues Simon Chapman, there is no scientific justification for such a draconian attack on basic freedoms

Yes—Ara Darzi and Oliver P Keown

Extending antismoking legislation in the United Kingdom to encompass a ban in parks and squares is an opportunity to celebrate the great beacon of healthy living, clean air, and physical activity our green spaces are designed for. And, crucially, it is an opportunity to support our population—young and old—to make healthier lifestyle choices easier. To tackle the significant burden of disease still associated with smoking, public health officials must take confidence and emerging evidence from international success stories, resume a national debate on the subject, and innovate across the public policy spectrum to help people make healthier decisions in their everyday lives.

Banning smoking in parks and squares could be one such policy to support healthier decision making, as well as being a natural next step in the 60 year public health battle that has raged in the UK since Richard Doll first illustrated the detrimental health effects of the habit.1 The evidence remains clear: smoking tobacco is still the largest contributor to ill health and preventable mortality in the world today. Despite downward trends in uptake across North America and Europe it persists as a growing epidemic internationally, disproportionately affecting the world’s poorest people.2 In England, despite the number of smokers having halved in the past 30 years through effective public health interventions, it still prematurely kills more than 79 000 people a year, contributes to the growing prevalence of non-communicable disease, costs the NHS an estimated £2.7bn (€3.7bn; $4.2bn) a year in associated healthcare expenditure, and—most frighteningly—attracts the highest rates of uptake among the country’s young and …

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