Children, Netherlands, Politics

Smoking and Children: The Dutch Attitude (Part II)

Photo Credit: Mi Sio

Over a year ago I wrote a post on this blog about the Dutch attitude to smoking around children and my personal experience with parents smoking on the school playground whilst waiting to pick their children up.

In fact, things were so bad that the school pupils were being used to pick up the cigarette butts -which I found appalling. (I’m keeping my language tame here when I say that). Whilst many parents were complaining about the example this gave the children, the school refused to take any hard line saying the school playground was public so they couldn’t ban it. Instead of asking parents politely not to smoke in the interests of our children’s health and set an appropriate example, the school added a note to the school newsletter to say that the children had cleaned the playground of cigarette butts and could parents please keep it tidy and not drop any more……flabbergastingly unbelievable.

Well, I have good news. We changed schools. Not because of this, although this kind of school policy certainly didn’t help to make us feel any more comfortable with our original school choice. The new school has taken a stance on parents smoking on the school playground. The school acknowledges that it is a public area so it cannot ban smoking outright but states in the school rules that smoking on the playground is a nuisance for other parents and children alike. The director has asked that if parents have to smoke that they do it right away from the school playground.

Now, that wasn’t so painful was it? And the best bit? Parents actually listen. In my first month in the new school I have not seen one parent smoking on the school playground. Thank goodness common sense prevails at some schools.

However, I still notice a lot of smoking around me at places like zoos and amusement parks and am always amazed at just how oblivious many are that they are smoking over prams and pushchairs and blowing smoke in children’s faces or worse still holding their cigarette in their hands at just the right height to be dangerously close to a child’s face.

Legoland Windsor – raising the bar
with their smoking policy
Photo: (c) A van Mulligen

There is an example however, that Dutch attractions geared at children should be looking at –  Legoland in Windsor, England has taken a stand and has banned smoking everywhere in the park aside from a designated smoking area which makes for a very pleasant change indeed. This is their smoking policy:

Smoking Policy

LEGOLAND Windsor wishes to be at the forefront of reducing smoking in public places due to the fact we are designed for families with young children. There is one designated smoking area in the park near to Fire Academy. This is the only area where smoking is allowed in the park.
Smoking is not allowed in any other outdoor space, queue-line, restaurant, shop or attraction and cigarettes are not sold on site. You will be asked to put out your cigarettes by our staff members.
The policy above also applies to electronic cigarettes.

Since my post last year smoking has once again been on the Dutch political agenda with a small majority voting in February 2013 for a total ban on tobacco in cafes and bars. Which some of you may remember they already did in 2008. However, the law was then reversed for small cafes without staff members by the high courts. And now the law is being put back into force for all cafes and bars, regardless of size or staffing. For what it is worth of course, as according to the Ministry of Health the smoking ban is currently largely ignored by around 40% of establishments.

On 1 January 2014 the age limit to buy cigarettes in the Netherlands rises from 16 to 18.

So there are positive steps to try and reduce smoking, however it does remain prevalent.

The Dutch attitude to smoking is a strange and complicated thing indeed. But I am relieved to see that in my own little corner of the world there is the recognition that smoking and children don’t mix.

Is smoking around children tolerated in your part of the world? Have you seen changes in the attitude to smoking in the last year?

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