SPORT & Smoke Don’t Mix – that’s the message of a new campaign to raise awareness of the effects of second-hand smoke on children.

Smokers are being urged not to light up where children could be exposed, whether it’s on the touchline at a football match or other sporting event.

Middlesbrough’s Smokefree Alliance, led by Middlesbrough Council’s Improving Public Health service, has joined forces with Grassroots Football to spread the word.

The effects of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke, especially on children, include respiratory problems such as lung or airway infections, wheezing, coughing and breathlessness, and an increased risk of developing other infections that can cause acute and chronic health problems.

Children with asthma or other underlying respiratory problems are especially vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke.

They are at greater risk of developing symptoms earlier in life and having more symptoms and asthma attacks as they grow older.

Edward Kunonga, Director of Public Health for Middlesbrough Council, said:

“The number of people who smoke in the North east is falling.

“However, smoking remains the single largest cause of preventable illness and premature deaths in Middlesbrough.

“In addition to the health effects of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke, when children play sports they need as much clean air as possible. If the air contains tobacco smoke, this increases the amount of harmful chemicals entering their lungs.

“We need to ensure sporting events are smoke-free to enable children to enjoy as well as maximise the health and wellbeing benefits of being physically active.”

Christopher Hudson from Kader Football Club said: “Our club wholeheartedly backs Middlesbrough’s Smokefree Alliance campaign to raise awareness of the health risks from second-hand smoke.

“Over the past few years we have worked with our parents to stop smoking on the side-lines of football pitches so all our players can enjoy the game without being affected by second-hand smoke.

“We want to set a good example to our players, and not seeing people smoke where football is being played is part of the process to encourage children to look after their health and wellbeing.”

Councillor Julia Rostron, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Adult Health and Social Care, and Chair of Middlesbrough’s Smokefree Alliance, said: “Reducing smoking prevalence rates in Middlesbrough and preventing exposure to secondhand smoke, especially children and young people, is a public health priority.

“Children must be protected from the effects of inhaling tobacco smoke and they should be able to take part in and enjoy sports without risk of exposure to smoke.”

Grassroots Football spokesman Paul Kirton said: “Grassroots Football is for children and families to enjoy and improve their health and wellbeing.

“Smoking in sports stadiums has not been allowed for some time, which has helped to improve the enjoyment and experience of professional sports.

“However, at a local level we continue to see some spectators choosing to smoke around football pitches and this exposes young players to tobacco smoke.

“One of our aims is to give children a voice and to listen to their views on health and fitness and their involvement in football.

“A particular concern we hear is that young players are often exposed to tobacco smoke and they find it an unpleasant experience.

“They understand that smoking is not healthy and they don’t want to be affected by people smoking when training or playing football matches.

“Through the campaign and with help from local football teams we hope that our message that Sport & Smoke Don’t Mix will encourage people to quit the habit and make sports smoke-free.”

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