SMOKERS are being asked to keep their habit away from the gates of Newport secondary schools as the council launches a new plan to make schools healthier across the city.

Caerleon comprehensive was the first to officially declare its school gates a no smoking zone today, as part of Newport’s wider healthy schools initiative.

The tobacco control charity ASH Wales Cymru has been lobbying schools across Wales to ban smoking at their gates and has produced guidelines and signage to support schools wanting to take part.

Every secondary school in the county will be asked to follow suit and implement the voluntary ban over the coming weeks.

Catherine Handey, assistant head teacher at Caerleon Comprehensive said: “We are delighted to take part in this initiative lead by ASH Wales. It is an important step forward in our work to promote Healthy Schools and raise awareness with young people of the health risks associated with smoking.”

Primary schools in the area are said to have already committed to smokefree gates, with signage going up across the city.

Smokefree areas protect others from second-hand smoke and help in ‘de-normalising’ the deadly habit.

Almost half of long-term smokers begin smoking before leaving secondary school, with around a third of children who try smoking becoming regular smokers within three years.

Research shows young people are highly influenced by others smoking around them - those with a parent who smokes are 70 per cent more likely to take up the habit. Banning smoking also helps to improve litter levels and the local environment.

Newport cabinet member for education and young people, councillor Gail Giles, said: “I am pleased that schools in our local authority area have the chance to sign up to this initiative which highlights the harm smoking does to a person’s health.

“And it is great that Caerleon Comprehensive is the first secondary school in South Wales to do so.

“Anything we can do to encourage people not to smoke around their children, and particularly at the school gates is a good thing. We hope all schools across Newport will take up this voluntary code.”

Suzanne Cass, chief executive of ASH Wales Cymru added: “Smoking in areas which are created specifically for our young people sends them the completely incorrect message that tobacco is a harmless part of everyday life rather than a deadly and addictive drug. It is essential we set positive examples wherever we can.”