Even those individuals who do not smoke are affected by smoking and tobacco; second-hand smoke causes 79,000 deaths a year in the EU. This public health initiative launched last year, through which smoking has been banned in the playing fields in Malta, is an important step towards better protection for children from the harm of passive smoking.
On the occasion of an event at the smoke-free children playing field in Ħaż-Żebbuġ Malta, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli said that “I am delighted with the response to date” said Commissioner Dalli. “I am particularly pleased that more than 165,000 smokers are already actively using iCoach, our interactive smoking cessation tool. iCoach offers support with practical tips and advice as you move through the stages of smoking cessation. This represents the first time an EU campaign has offered practical help.”
“I gave up smoking myself some years ago” said Commissioner Dalli, “and I know how difficult it can be. I believe that with this new campaign and supporting tool, we will genuinely be able to make a difference to people’s lives and help them become ‘unstoppable’. ”
Commissioner Dalli also highlighted the success rate of the campaign in Malta, where over 20,000 people have engaged on the campaign’s social media tool, while over 1,500 smokers have registered with iCoach, making Maltese take-up rather high above the EU27 average. The iCoach is a core part of the campaign, launched in June 2011 across all EU member states, aiming to motivate smokers to stop.
Malta has currently introduced a smoking ban in local playing fields. This measure is being implemented through Malta’s local councils with the aim to to ensure a better quality of life, where it comes to smoke-free public spaces.
The Mayor of Ħaż-Żebbuġ, Mr Alfred Grixti, said that “On a personal level, and as a Mayor, I fully support the initiatives being taken by EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, the Hon. John Dalli, in order to inform and persuade as many EU citizens as possible about the need to curb smoking.
I firmly believe that smoking is negative both for the health of smokers and non-smokers alike and, equally important, that the cost of treatment of people suffering from smoking related illnesses is becoming too prohibitively high.”
He added that “Since Malta has adopted the policy of making our playing fields smoke free areas, there were mixed reactions. Smokers have not taken to it but parents with young families are all for it since they understand that this is in the best interest of their children”, concluded Mr. Grixti.
The event was also addressed by the President of the Southern Region, Ms. Claudette Abela Baldacchino and the President of the Local Council Association, Mr. Michael Cohen, who highlighted the importance of keeping public areas, especially those frequented by children, smoke-free. The Director of the Health Promotion Unit, responsible for the national quit line, Dr. Charmaine Gauci, stressed on the importance of quitting smoking and also highlighted the various initiatives taken by the Department to support those who want to quit the habit.
To see pictures of the day, click here.