Wales is to become the first country in the UK to see smoking banned on the side-lines of children’s football games in a historic move by the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and FAW Trust.
The decision by the FAW to introduce a no smoking policy on the side-lines of its small-sided, children’s football games has been welcomed by Health Minister Vaughan Gething and follows a campaign by ASH Wales aimed at de-normalising smoking and preventing children from ever taking up the habit, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and increased risks faced by smokers.
It is launching the policy today to mark World Heart Day which is run by the World Heart Federation and supported by UEFA and Healthy Stadia.
In the first grass-roots country-wide initiative of its kind in the UK, FAW and FAW Trust will ask all small-sided football teams to apply the policy during games and training sessions for 522 junior clubs, 3,159 teams and 42,232 players across Wales.
The new FAW policy will see smoking banned from the side-lines at football matches across Wales for ages 5-11-years old from September 2020, followed by 5-12-years from September 2021 and then 5-13-years from 2022.
Research has shown that children are highly influenced by the behaviour of adults in their lives, such as parents and sports coaches. Children with a parent who smokes are 70% more likely to smoke themselves.
The Smokefree Sports Cymru campaign aims to raise awareness of this intergenerational habit with 9% of 15 to 16-year olds in Wales still smoking and more than 6,000 children taking up smoking every year in Wales, according to Cancer Research UK. The policy will also ensure that more children are protected from exposure to second-hand smoke.
A pilot smoking ban was trialled at Rhondda & District Football League’s mini and junior football games and at the South Wales Women’s and Girl’s League junior matches before the decision was made to introduce the policy across Wales.
The FAW and FAW Trust policy comes ahead of new regulations banning smoking in playgrounds and in the grounds of schools and hospitals as part of the Public Health (Wales) Act, that are due to come into force in March 2021.