The measure was scheduled for 2020, but with the pandemic, it has just come into force: since Monday, it is No smoking in the playgrounds in Verviers. A symbolic measure, which coincides with World No Tobacco Day on May 31. For the municipality, it was to make smokers aware of the influence they can have on children. “We had to change the representation of society for them, explains Sophie Lambert, alderman (PS) of Health in Verviers. At those ages, there are approaches to imitation. By no longer seeing adults smoke, they change the image to which they refer.“Hence the launch, to accompany the measure, of hashtags such as jefaiscommelesgrandsoupas.
Verviers is not the first municipality to ban smoking in public spaces frequented by children. According to the report of the Foundation against Cancer, pAlmost 100 municipalities have already taken steps in this direction, mainly on the Flemish side. Watchword : “denormalize tobacco“, explains Suzanne Gabriels, spokesperson and smoking expert at the Foundation against Cancer. “If all adults smoke everywhere, children think this is normal behavior“, she notes. Not to mention that in families where parents smoke, children often follow the (bad) example: a quarter of the children of smokers smoke from adolescence, according to a study by the journal Pediatrics in 2013 .
The old-fashioned cigarette?
But are these measures effective for all that? “It’s too early to know in Belgium“Replies Suzanne Gabriels, who specifies that it is only since 2019 that they have become widespread in the municipalities. In our French neighbors, on the other hand, things have been changing for a long time. Since 2015, a decree bans smoking in the areas games, and since 2012, the League against Cancer has labeled “tobacco-free spaces”, in partnership with the municipalities.
►►► Read also : Mechelen wants to make all its stations smoke-free
In 2020, there were no less than 2,800 spaces of this type, in 43 departments. The city of Strasbourg, in Alsace, is a pioneer, since after the playgrounds in 2014, it decided to transform all its parks and gardens into tobacco-free spaces. “We observed a very high level of acceptance: 90% of people were in favor“, welcomes Dr Alexandre Feltz, Deputy Mayor in charge of Health. He observes that among young people,”the image of tobacco becomes old-fashioned, with one side anti-ecological and chemical“.
The same goes for Nantes (West), including five large parks which have been labeled “tobacco-free spaces” since last Saturday. “There has been a great evolution in the way of smoking in France“, recalls Marlène Collineau, Deputy Mayor of Nantes, in charge of Health, who also defends the idea of”denormalization“smoking in society. But she believes it will not be easy to”quantitatively measure“the impact of this measure.”We can take the opinion of the population“, she remarks.
It is for this reason that the town hall chose five parks located in very different places: the Extraordinary Garden, a very family but also tourist place, or the Clos Toreau park, in a popular district, where the tobacco consumption is higher. “This allows you to see how it goes under very different conditions., says Marlène Collineau. It is representative of what life is like in Nantes.“
Repression cannot come before awareness raising
On the side of the League against Cancer, we firmly believe in the effectiveness of such a measure on young audiences. A concrete example ? “After an intervention in a college in Saint-Nazaire [près de Nantes, ndlr], third grade students [deuxième secondaire] asked the municipality to set up a tobacco-free area at the end of college“, says Marie-Christine Larive, president of the departmental section of the League against Cancer. According to her, this shows the impact of denormalization:”The children have appropriated it, they have been at the initiative of a tobacco-free space.“
As for smokers, they can go a little further. Especially in France as in Belgium, no sanction is provided for offenders. “We thought about the question, notes Sophie Lambert, in Verviers. We could have mentioned the ban and put fines in the regulations. But repression cannot come before awareness“, she says. Same conviction in Nantes: “We have provided for the possibility of sanctioning, but we believe it can work like that without a fine, assumes Marlène Collineau. After a year, we will take stock of awareness.“
►►► Read also : Reducing access to tobacco for adolescents means avoiding dependence and difficult withdrawal
Especially since generalized surveillance seems too complex to implement in most municipalities. “As these are spaces with long time slots and fifteen plains, it would have been difficult to control“, specifies Sophie Lambert.”We are not going to put a controller everywhere, we will never have this ability, abounds Suzanne Gabriels, of the Foundation against cancer in Belgium. Odon’t want cameras like in China, sraising awareness at the local level is very good.“
On the French side, the League against cancer also believes that verbalization is not the best solution. “The it is better to have as many people as possible“, affirms Marie-Christine Larive. Tobacco-free spaces are not intended to become”sanctuaries“. In Strasbourg, the possibility of a fine exists.”It is registered in the park regulations, explains Alexandre Feltz. But we are not never went so far as to verbalize. There was self-regulation.“
On the train or on the plane, at the restaurant, people have become accustomed to not smoking
The most important thing is communication: in Nantes as in Verviers, discussion areas have been set up. According to the League Against Cancer, pread from 89% of Nantes surveyed said they were interested in the measure. “This allows you to wonder about your own consumption“, notes Marlène Collineau. In Belgium, the Foundation against cancer wants to see the balance of advantages and disadvantages”to toggle“for smokers. “If it becomes complicated and uncomfortable to smoke at work, in parks, it will change“, hopes Suzanne Gabriels.
The restriction of the use of cigarettes is already partly accepted, believes Marie-Christine Larive. “Whether you take the train or plane, or go to a restaurant, people have gotten used to not smoking, remarks Marie-Christine Larive. We can hope that in tobacco-free spaces, this will be implemented.“Even if, she tempers,”the revolution will not happen overnight.“It’s already off to a good start in France: According to the French Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction, tobacco use among young adolescents has been declining for 10 years. Between 2014 and 2018, levels of experimentation fell sharply, particularly among 13 and 15 year olds.