A CAMPAIGN Group is calling for smoking to be banned in beer gardens in Wales.

ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Wales is calling for Welsh Government to protect children’s health by bringing in the ban.

It wants legislation that came into force in March banning smoking in the grounds of schools, hospitals and in playgrounds, to be extended to the outdoor seating areas of pubs, bars and restaurants.

The proposal has been backed by Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland, who said extending the regulations to areas where families gather, such as beer gardens, would further de-normalise smoking in the eyes of children, making them less likely to take up the habit themselves and protecting them from the harms of second-hand smoke.

Five local authorities in England have banned smoking in the pavement seating areas of pubs, cafes and restaurants and Oxfordshire is to become the first county in England to completely ban smoking outside bars and restaurants.

Ash says there is strong public support for a similar ban in Wales with 63% of adults in favour of the proposal, according to a YouGov survey.

Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales, said: “Welsh Government has shown a really strong commitment to tackling smoking prevalence in Wales by becoming the first UK nation to ban smoking in school and hospital grounds and in children’s playgrounds.

“We believe it should now listen to the people of Wales and extend that ban to outdoor seating areas such as beer gardens where young people and families with children gather. This is particularly important in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic when many more people choose to sit outdoors when possible and smokers and non-smokers find themselves sitting alongside each other.

“It is really important to do all we can to ensure children are not exposed to the sight of adults smoking in everyday settings. 81% of adults in Wales were under 18 when they tried their first cigarette. By de-normalising smoking we hope to prevent many more from being caught in the grip of this deadly addiction.”

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland, said extending the ban to outdoor seating areas of pubs, restaurants and cafes would both protect children’s health and take Wales a step further to becoming a smoke-free nation.

She said: “All children have the right under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to be kept safe from activity which harms their health and development; this includes both guarding against the direct negative health impact of second-hand smoke, and the preventative role of de-normalising smoking so that children are not exposed to this harmful practice at all in their daily lives.

“In order to achieve our collective ambition of a smoke-free Wales, young people should never see smoking as a positive option. Extending the existing regulations to include the outdoor seating areas of pubs, cafes and restaurants would take us another step towards this goal.”

Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing Lynne Neagle said Welsh Government’s long-term goal is to make more public spaces in Wales smoke-free.

She said: “The Welsh Government is taking action to reduce the health impacts of smoking and we intend to build upon the measures we introduced on 1 March 2021 which made hospital grounds, school grounds, public playgrounds and outdoor areas of childcare settings smoke-free.

“We are committed to our longer-term goal of making more of Wales’ public spaces smoke-free, in helping people to make positive changes to their health and wellbeing and to supporting our aim of a smoke-free Wales.”

But a smokers' group says a call to ban smoking outside pubs in Wales is "monumentally stupid".

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest, said: "There is no risk to anyone else's health, including children, if people smoke outside in the open air.

"Smoking in beer gardens and other seating areas outside pubs is therefore an issue for individual proprietors not politicians or the public health industry.

"If publicans want to ban smoking in beer gardens that's their choice and there's nothing to stop them doing it now if they think it will be good for business.

"But pubs aren't health clubs and if publicans want to accommodate adults who wish to smoke they must be allowed to do so without further intervention."

He added: "Threatening pubs with further regulations at the very moment the hospitality industry is trying to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic is monumentally stupid."