Could We Ban Smoking In London's Parks?

By BethPH Last edited 33 months ago
Could We Ban Smoking In London's Parks?
Photo by McTumshie in the Londonist Flickr pool

Brighton could be set to join Bristol, New York and Hong Kong in banning smoking in some public areas, as the town council considers a ban on lighting up on the beach.

We wondered if City Hall would ever step up and stub out smoking in London's parks and public spaces. It's not a new idea — anti-smoking campaigners have frequently called for a ban — but it's one which polarises opinion.

Who has introduced a ban?

Local authorities don't need City Hall to impose a ban in their open spaces; they already have the power to do it themselves. We checked on their smoking policies and found only a handful of councils, including Waltham Forest, Hackney and Islington, have smoke free children's playgrounds. Royal Parks, who run a number of the capital's open spaces, including Victoria Tower Gardens and 10 Downing Street as well as the eight Royal Parks, only appears to have a playground ban in Kensington Gardens.

Smokers working at Canary Wharf (albeit private land) will also have noticed the appearance of smoking shelters in an attempt to keep the rest of the area smoke free. Anyone caught sparking up in the wrong place could be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice by Tower Hamlets council.

Last year London Mayor Boris Johnson commissioned a report investigating the possibility of extending the smoking ban to outside spaces. And not just in parks. Following his predecessor's successful banishment of pigeons from Trafalgar Square, if the Mayor decides to act upon Lord Darzi's recommendations, smokers could find themselves excluded from one of the capital's landmark open spaces. It's probably fairly safe to assume that we won't see a ban just yet — the Mayor called the proposals 'bossy and nannying'.

Policing the parks

So could we introduce a smoking ban in London's outdoor spaces? Since nothing's preventing City Hall or individual local authorities imposing a ban, how would it be enforced?

The Met patrols some parks, with private security companies picking up others, but if you throw in a load of open spaces which are also tourist hotspots then cover starts looking pretty thin. We asked GLA Conservative Group leader and 2016 Mayoral hopeful Andrew Boff if he thought a smoking ban was on the cards:

I am against any proposal to ban smoking in open air public spaces. It would be almost impossible to enforce such a move. Educating people about the health risks associated with smoking, without the state trying to control behaviour via statute, will always be my preferred solution. Personal liberties and freedoms are hallmarks of our political system, and a smoking ban extension could lead to other less palatable policies down the line.

Anti-regulation group The Manifesto Club has teamed up with smokers' group Forest to oppose the proposals. Forest director Simon Clark told the Guardian:

Outdoor smoking bans make no sense. Smokers don’t need self-righteous campaigners regulating their behaviour. We’re in danger of creating an incredibly censorious society in which regulations are based not on potential harm to others but on people’s personal preferences. It’s worrying and it has to stop.

Since the government, as well as City Hall, has said it has no plans to introduce smoking bans in outdoor areas, it seems likely that any initiatives will come from local authorities. Until then, Trafalgar Square's smokers won't follow pigeons in exile.

Would you like to see a ban on smoking in parks and outdoor spaces? Tell us in the comments.

Last Updated 01 August 2015


Even better, I would like to see smoking allowed only in specific outdoor spaces.

Ken Sandale

Yes, smokers should not be allowed to poison non-smokers. It is silly to blabber about government intrusion, when such intrusion is to prevent smokers from intruding on normal people.

Nicolas Chinardet

Forest is a little more than just a smokers' group. It's funded by the tobacco industry...

I think a ban in outdoor events (i.e. when there is a crowd with people not having the choice to move one - not that they should have) and eating areas would be good.


What? Do they think we're going to light up & blow smoke in their faces at close range? FFS, these sanctimonious,holier-than-thou "guardians of the nation's sensibilities" have been pissing me off for years....I'm twice as pissed off now! Jesus,you'd think Mustard Gas in WW1 was less efficient than exhaled fag-smoke,if you want to listen to this total health-nazi bollocks!

Judy Judge

While as a non-smoker I appreciate the ban on smoking in public indoor places, I think the bans can be carried too far. Yes, I wish everyone would stop smoking, but I do not believe government should have that much control over a person's private habits.

Mike Paterson

Nothing to do with health. Everything to do with spoil-sportism. Always has been. Hence the drive against vaping, mainly by the same people. You know the ones. Their shrewish faces liked a smacked arse, wrinkled up noses, waving their hands in front of their face, coughing theatrically. "You smoke, I choke!" Etc.


Smoke all you like, just please stand downwind of me. What DOES bother me is the litter generated. Why is it still OK for people to drop fag ends everywhere?


Ban it in parks, ban it on beaches. In fact, ban it anywhere that can't be swept up. Not because it's inconsiderate and unpleasant (although it is) but because of the sheer amount of litter that is dropped. Billions upon billions of fag butts are dropped every year all over this once beautiful planet and they don't degrade.


here's an idea, how about banning smoking everywhere except pubs, that way all the pubs that closed down due to the no smoking ban will reopen and all you fresh air outdoor types can stay outside


Cigarette smoke does not only harm Non-Smokers, it kills many each day. So if you are smoking around people, you are possibly killing them. It's as simple as that.
You just don't want it to be true because you are addicted to a shitty product that costs you money on top of everything, and instead of arguing with the people who manufacture it and who got you addicted in the first place, you are attacking those who are trying to protect themselves and others. That's normal for addicts, unfortunately, but it's not gonna change the fact. IF smoking was not proven to harm non-smokers, the cigarette companies would never allow messages like "Smoking seriously harms you and those AROUND you" on their packaging!!! They have to, because it is proven. So there is no need to have this ridiculous argument over whether it hurts or does not hurt non-smokers. Fact is that even if it did not hurt them, I feel sad for people who have to force their shit on others, and when you smoke anywhere where there are people around, whether that is in public or in your home and your neighbours have their windows open, you are doing so and the one thing I am happy to guarantee you is that it's causing you a LOT of bad karma. Attack those who are responsible, who manufacture the shit, who deceived you into an addiction and make you pay for it, and pollute the environment with it as well. Unless you are working for them, and are posting here because you get paid to do so, which would not surprise me. There is a good film about the tobacco industry called "The Insider". Watch it if you haven't already. It's based on a true story and has all the facts. Also shows how they lied about cigarettes being addictive when it turned out they were actually making them to be addictive on purpose.