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'Smoking to be banned in London parks'

A plan to ban smoking in London's parks has been unveiled today by former health minister Lord Darzi as part of what has been called “the biggest public health drive in the world”. 

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies welcomed the plans unveiled by the Better Health For London commission, saying it could stop “role-modelling” in front of children. 

Currently around 1.2 million Londoners smoke, and 67 school children take up the habit every day, the latest figures show. 

The proposal to ban smoking in parks is part of a major new drive to make London the healthiest city with over five million inhabitants within 10 years. 

London Mayor Boris Johnson has 'bylaw powers' that would allow him to make Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square smoke free, and could then influence London's councils to do the same. 

If the plan is deemed successful, it could be rolled out in other big UK cities. 

Darzi said: “A smoke free London will be better for us all. A better example for children. Fewer opportunities for smokers to smoke. Less litter. More green and more pleasant places for us to come together for better health.

“As a cancer surgeon working in the NHS, I see the terrible consequences for smokers and their families. We must do more to help people quit and discourage kids from taking it up. The 2007 legislation tackled passive smoking. We now need to do more to help smokers to kick the habit.”

London has the highest rate of obese or overweight schoolchildren in any comparable city in the world, Lord Darzi found. 

Just 13% of Londoners walk or cycle to school or work, despite around half living close by. To tackle this, other suggestions in the Better Health For London report include: 

 1 Mandatory traffic-light labelling on restaurant menus to help Londoners make healthier choices.

 2 Public transport discounts for commuters who walk to work. The scheme - financed by employers - would reward commuters who walk the last mile into work and the first mile home with discounts. 

 3 A ban on junk food outlets opening within 400 metres of schools. 

 4 Boroughs afflicted by problem drinking would be able to use their licensing powers to set a minimum 50p per unit price for alcohol. 

 5 Speeding up air quality measures. 

In a letter presenting the report to the Mayor, Lord Darzi said: “The ideas and proposals in this report have been developed for London. Yet they could just as easily apply to other big cities in the UK - London should be a leader, not an exception.

“I passionately believe that Britain's local and city governments can become the defining locus for better health.”