The Football Association of Wales (FAW) has banned smoking on the sidelines of children’s football games, becoming the first country in the UK to do so.
The ban came into place to mark World Heart Day, following a campaign by the anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Wales, who focuses on de-normalising the habit of smoking, therefore reducing the chances of children taking it up as they grow older, as well as inhaling second-hand smoke themselves whilst playing.
The decision comes in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, in a time where smoking is considered even more dangerous.
The new ruling will impact 3,159 teams and 42,232 players across Wales at both games and during training sessions. For those aged 5-11, the policy has already come into place, whereas it will affect those aged 5-12 as of September 2021 and 5-13 in 2022, according to the FAW and FAW Trust.
Dr David Adams, technical director of the FAW Trust said: “As a parent of children who take part in grassroots football, I am delighted with our partnership with ASH Wales and that the FAW and FAW Trust are leading the way to help the next generation of children grow up recognising the health risks associated with smoking.
“This step change is also part of our wider agenda to ensure children’s first experiences of small sided football are positive.”
Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales added: “Currently in Wales there is an urgent need to address youth smoking prevalence which is still at an unacceptable level.
“When children witness adults lighting up in everyday settings such as football pitches, they come to see smoking as a normal lifestyle choice, rather than the deadly addiction that it is.
“This policy will make a big difference to children’s perception of smoking and we very much hope that this will prevent many of them from taking up the habit in later life.”
The policy was trialled in the Rhondda and District Football League’s mini and junior football games, alongside the South Wales Women’s and Girl’s League matches.
Research from ASH Wales showed that 82 per cent of adults supported the notion of banning smoking at children’s football games.
"I welcome the work undertaken by the FAW to ban smoking on the sidelines of all small-sided football games in Wales,” said Vaughan Gething, health minister for the Welsh Parliament.
"Voluntary bans like this one help protect children from seeing smoking as an acceptable and normal behaviour and can help prevent them from taking up smoking in the first place."
An FAW statement claimed that “children with a parent who smokes are 70 per cent more likely to smoke themselves in Wales."
Wales has taken a strong stance on smoking in recent times, having also banned it in school grounds and hospitals as part of the Public Health (Wales) Act, due to come into force in March 2021.
Author: Jake Wilkin