Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke is considering banning smoking in “places where many children are present,” including sports fields, playgrounds, amusement parks, or even public parks.
While the De Croo government has said it wants to achieve a “smoke-free generation” by launching multiple public campaigns aimed at making smoking less attractive and accessible, almost one in two smoking parents still regularly smokes in front of their children, according to De Standaard.
In Flanders, nearly 30,000 children are exposed to tobacco smoke every single day.
This is why Vandenbroucke is now considering banning smoking in places where there are likely to be children.
“People stop smoking every day. But we will only achieve a smoke-free generation if those quitting smokers are not replaced by young people who have just started,” Hedwig Verhaegen, a director at Kom op tegen Kanker (Stand up to Cancer), the Flemish Cancer Society, told De Standaard.
Verhaegen emphasised that the risks associated with second-hand smoke are “particularly great” for children, who stand to develop asthma or a higher risk of cardiovascular disease later on in life as a result of exposure.
“It is very important that we denormalise smoking,” Verhaegen said. “It should no longer be considered normal for someone to light a cigarette somewhere. Because then young people will also find that normal and copy that behavior.”
Verhaegen says there is “enormous support from the population” for a smoking ban targeting places where children abound.
He says that the first initiatives in Flanders show that a smoking ban in and around playgrounds, for example, doesn’t require strict rules or controls.
“If your parents explain that this prevents young people from starting to smoke themselves, they will respect the smoking ban,” said Verhaegen. “Because the last thing most smoking parents want is for their children to become addicted to the cigarette too.”
The Brussels Times