SMOKING should be banned in beer gardens in Wales according to campaigners.

ASH Wales is calling on the Welsh Government to extend the ban on smoking in the grounds of schools, hospitals and playgrounds – introduced in March – to include the outdoor seating areas of pubs, bars and restaurants.

Children’s commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland, has backed the proposal and believes that extending the regulation to places like beer gardens and other areas where families gather 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.’

Sixty-three per cent of adults in Wales who took the ASH Wales’ YouGov survey were in favour of the proposal.

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

ASH Wales’ CEO, Suzanne Cass, 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 per cent 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.”

Sally Holland, the children’s commissioner for Wales, 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.”

Lynne Neagle, deputy minister for mental health and wellbeing, 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.”

Currently in Wales youth smoking prevalence remains stubbornly high with around 6,000 children taking up the habit every year and eight per cent of 15 to 16-year-olds smoking regularly – a figure that has not changed since 2013.