SMOKING on the sidelines of children's football games and training sessions in Wales is to be banned.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) and the FAW Trust has announced the new rules are being put in place this month for teams with players aged five to 11 years old, from September 2021 for up to 12 years and the following year for up to 13.

Wales will be the first country in the UK to make the move, which will apply to games and training sessions for 522 junior clubs, 3,159 teams and 42,232 players.

The news follows a trial at the Rhondda & District Football League’s mini and junior football games and at the South Wales Women’s and Girl’s League junior matches, and comes ahead of new regulations banning smoking in playgrounds and in the grounds of schools and hospitals in March.


The Welsh Government's health minister Vaughan Gething said: “I welcome the work undertaken by the FAW to ban smoking on the side-lines of all children’s football games in Wales. Voluntary bans like this one help protect children from seeing smoking as an acceptable and normal behaviour and can help prevent them from taking up smoking in the first place.

“I remain committed to take further action to de-normalise smoking in more public places, particularly those where children are likely to be present and plan to introduce a ban on smoking in outdoor care settings for children, school grounds, hospital grounds and public playgrounds on March 1, 2021."

According to a survey carried out by anti-smoking association ASH Wales, 82 per cent of adults in Wales are in favour of banning smoking in outdoor areas where children play sport.

The organisation's chief executive Suzanne Cass said: “Currently in Wales there is an urgent need to address youth smoking prevalence which is still at an unacceptable level.

“When children witness adults lighting up in everyday settings such as football pitches, they come to see smoking as a normal lifestyle choice, rather than the deadly addiction that it is.

“This policy will make a big difference to children’s perception of smoking and we very much hope that this will prevent many of them from taking up the habit in later life.”

Dr David Tuthill, officer for Wales at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) also welcomed the move.

He said: “We applaud this new initiative by the FAW. Earlier this year, our State of Child Health report showed that Wales had the highest proportion of young people smoking of all the four nations.

“Worryingly, this proportion seemed to be increasing – the only one of the four where that was the case. Smoking causes long-term harm to children and adults. Keeping children smoke-free is vital.”

John Griffiths, MS, for Newport East added: “This is another important step forward to making our public spaces fully smoke free.

"The side-lines of our children’s football games across Wales should be a safe place for parents and players.

"They shouldn’t have to endure the harmful effects of passive smoke.”