Smoking could be banned in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens under new city centre plans

A number of Manchester city centre areas are being considered in the smoke-free zone scheme.

Some public spaces in Manchester could be ‘smoke free’ by the end of this year as the city looks to follow in the footsteps of Melbourne and New York.

People smoking in selected city centre outdoor spaces would be asked to stub out their cigarette or leave the smoke-free zone as part of a new pilot project.

But there are no plans to bring in by-laws or fines for people caught smoking, with an ‘education-first’ approach, offering smokers support to quit, favoured.

Piccadilly Gardens, St Peter’s Square and the area around Manchester Town Hall are all being considered as potential smoke-free outdoor public spaces.

Banning smoking around the Etihad Stadium has also been suggested.

Piccadilly Gardens

And developers behind Mayfield Park, the new ‘green lung’ of the city set to open this summer, are already in talks about becoming a smoke-free space.

The new park near Piccadilly Station is currently the only public space under ‘active consideration’, according to Andrea Crossfield the Making Smoking History Lead for the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

What’s behind the plans?

It comes as Greater Manchester joins the Partnership of Healthy Cities – a global network committed to saving lives by preventing noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and chronic lung disease.

By joining, the city-region has committed to creating smoke-free outdoor spaces to protect residents and visitors from illnesses caused by tobacco.

Plans are now under way to explore several outdoor spots being turned into healthier, greener, safer spaces, with smoking not allowed in public areas.

A public consultation asking members of the public and local businesses for their views on the plans and for suggestions of places they want to become smoke-free is expected to start next month with a decision due in autumn.

The first smoking ban in an outdoor public space could come into force by the end of the year with further smoke-free spaces introduced by March 2023.

More smoke-free spaces could then be rolled out across Greater Manchester.

Salford mayor Paul Dennett Credit: Salford Council

Salford mayor Paul Dennett, chair of the Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership Board, said: “People living in Greater Manchester have a lower life expectancy than those living in other parts of the country, and we must take action to reduce preventable illnesses and the role they play in our considerable health inequalities.

“When we look at smoking, which is the leading cause of preventable illnesses, we have some of the highest smoking rates in the country, and it has a significant impact on our people’s health and wellbeing.

“Smoke-free spaces not only promote healthy behaviours to children and young people, but they also encourage smokers to quit and make it easier for ex-smokers to stay smoke-free.

“Through the Partnership for Healthy Cities network we will boost our efforts in making smoking history to ensure longer, healthier lives for our residents.”

Smoking tobacco is the single largest cause of preventable deaths globally and in Greater Manchester more than 5,000 adults die from smoking-related diseases every year.

It is estimated that smoking rates in Greater Manchester have fallen to 14.9 % – around 350,000 people.

But, smoking rates vary across the city-region with stark differences between neighbouring boroughs.

For example, Manchester’s smoking rate is 20.8 %, one in five adults, whereas Trafford’s is 8.5 %, roughly one in 12 – one of the lowest in the country.

Greater Manchester is set to receive $100,000 – around £79,000 – from the Partnership for Healthy Cities, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the World Health Organization and Vital Strategies to create the smoke-free spaces and change cultural and societal attitudes to smoking.

This funding will be used to ask members of the public, visitors, community groups, local businesses and residents which spaces they would like to see made smoke-free, and to install signs in the selected smoke-free spaces.

But local leaders say there is already strong support for smoke-free spaces.

In 2018, almost 78 % of people surveyed agreed that smoke-free spaces are a good idea, with particular concerns raised about the impact of smoking on children and young people.

When asked which outdoor spaces should be smoke-free, the public favoured children’s playgrounds (93 %), school entrances (92 %), outside public libraries and town halls (72 %), public parks (65 %) and outdoor events (60 %).

The first phase of the project will be delivered by Manchester council in collaboration with NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care, and takes learnings from the likes of Melbourne in Australia and New York in the USA which have implemented similar initiatives in the metropolitan cities.

Public con

Residents from all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester will be asked for their suggestions of smoke-free spaces with plans to introduce some in the city centre first and hopes for more to be rolled out across the city-region later.

The selected spaces will be signposted and people who do smoke may be asked to stub out and dispose of their cigarettes or leave the smokefree area.

But there are no plans to bring in legislation or fine people for smoking.

Manchester council’s environmental enforcement team may also fine people found littering cigarette butts in public spaces using fixed penalty notices.

Support and advice to anyone wanting to quit smoking will also be offered.

Manchester councillor Thomas Robinson, who is the executive member for Healthy Manchester and Adult Social Care said: “We are committed to tackling the harms caused by tobacco and want to see healthier, smoke-free spaces that everyone can enjoy, which is why we are pleased to be working with partners on this project to extend smoke-free spaces in the city.

“By making smoking less visible in certain outdoor spaces not only are we preventing children from inhaling secondhand smoke, but we are promoting healthy behaviours and setting a good example to children and young people who tend to copy adults’ behaviour.

“The more spaces we can make smoke-free, the less likely children are to take up smoking – preventing them from getting hooked on a deadly addiction.

“The reality is that smoking has a devastating impact on our communities, with two in three long-term smokers dying prematurely from their addiction and we need to embrace initiatives such as this to tackle this public health challenge.”

The consultation on smoke-free spaces is expected to launch next month.