Headlines: March 6th, 2006

Local authorities in Scotland could be urged to extend the ban on smoking to cover outdoor areas used by children, such as parks and playgrounds. The possibility has been raised by Scotland’s First Minister, Jack McConnell, in an interview with Children in Scotland, published today to mark the introduction of the ban.Mr. McConnell says he is struck by the support for the ban among young people and adds that he wants to make “being fitter and eating healthier” a priority for the country’s children. He goes on, “We have encouraged local authorities to consider the benefits of introducing smoke-free policies in external areas where children and young people go, like school playgrounds and parks. This will help to discourage young people from being influenced by what they may see as an adult activity.”

The First Minister gives a blunt assessment of the need to deliver improved health for Scottish children and says it is a key priority for Scottish ministers. “Scotland still has a terrible health record, even though there are real signs of improvement,” he says. He stresses the importance of meeting key targets on children’s health and reveals plans to issue an Action Framework for Children and Young People’s Health.

George Youngson, consultant paediatric surgeon at NHS Grampian said such an Action Framework would help place children’s health matters at the top of the Scottish Executive’s in-tray. “It would act as an important road map in improving – and making more consistent – health care for children throughout Scotland,” he said