New push for ‘Smokefree Sidelines’ in West Norfolk

16th Apr 2018
A campaign to ban smoking on the sidelines at youth football matches is gaining ground in West Norfolk.
So far, around a third of youth participants across the county have been directly impacted, with nearly 30 Norfolk clubs signing up to ‘Smokefree Sidelines’. Many more players and spectators have been aware of the initiative through playing away fixtures at Smokefree Sidelines clubs.
And there’s a new push in the West Norfolk League to encourage all of 24 member clubs to join the campaign.
When local youth football clubs join the campaign, they can obtain banners, posters, flags and pitchside tape to remind everyone that no-one should smoke in front of the kids on the pitch.
This means parents and visitors are asked to refrain from smoking indoors and outdoors, anywhere on site, including all playing fields and especially the pitch side lines.
Chairman of Shouldham Youth Football Club Phil Riedlinger champions Smokefree Sidelines and says it has had a positive impact at matches.
Phil said: “At Shouldham Youth Football Club we believe that we have the responsibility and ability to influence all of our young members’ lives. Youth football is not just about playing the game but teaches our children key life skills like teamwork, commitment, respect and how to win and lose.
“Smokefree Sidelines has been a wonderful opportunity to get our players and their parents to think about a key health issue and modify behaviors. It have been proven that our pitches are now smoke free. People who smoke and vape have moved away from the playing area and are showing discretion. It has also lead to some of our children challenging their parents smoke resulting in changing behaviour.”
The facts about smoking and young people in Norfolk are startling:
  • Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Norfolk

  • Approximately 1 in 6 people in Norfolk are smokers

  • Children who grow up with a parent or family member who smokes are three times more likely to start smoking themselves.

  • A worrying 40% of smokers started the habit aged 16 or under


    Smokefree Sidelines, which has been developed by NHS Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group as part of its Health Norwich programme in partnership with Norfolk County FA, aims to discourage parents from smoking at the sidelines to avoid youngsters from copying adult behaviour.


    If fewer young people take up smoking, it means fewer people will be exposed to dying prematurely with illnesses like cancer or heart disease in later life.

Healthy Norwich’s Rachel Hunt said: "We are delighted at the positive support received from Norfolk FA and local clubs, who are very keen the champion the smokefree messages.
“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in Norfolk, and we know that role modelling good health choices will have a positive effect to reduce the number of young people who start smoking - if children do not see smoking as the norm they are less likely to start smoking.
“Feedback so far about the campaign has been encouraging and it will help protect the future health of our young people. We would really love to see #smokefreesidelines at all childrens outdoor sporting activities."
Chris Brown, Chairman of Horsford FC is a keen supporter of Smokefree Sidelines. His club has 27 youth teams and the Smokefree Sidelines banners and flags are always out when the boys and girls are playing.
However there have been times when ‘away team’ supporters have needed a little gentle encouragement to heed the message, refrain from smoking and protect young lives.
Chris said: “Horsford FC were on board with Smokefree Sidelines the moment we received the information from Norfolk FA.
“Predominately we operate on a primary school site which has always been Smokefree, we then felt that the Smokefree Sidelines initiative should be applied to all our other venues that we use.
“We want all our players to have role models in their lives, and those that are supporting them on the side of the pitch should lead by example with respect and by being Smokefree.”
When Smokefree Sidelines was launched, in July 2017, the Norfolk FA Chairman, Michael Banham said: “We’re delighted to be able to provide support to such a worthwhile initiative that can have a real positive impact on the lives of Norfolk’s youth footballers.
“The statistics send a clear message and I’m glad that Norfolk FA can be a part of a drive to reduce the number of smokers in the County, in particular those starting at a young age due to the exposure they receive.”
James Wade, from Smokefree Norfolk, added: “Around 35% of children who smoke start around the age of 12 years with 90% of those children starting smoking because a family member does or because they feel peer pressure from their friends. 
“Secondhand smoke has been proven to be 85% more toxic than smoking and is full of toxic chemicals which can cause cancer and other lung or heart diseases, so this campaign will keep reminding people of the effects of tobacco addiction and their actions.”
Smoking often starts as a childhood addiction and evidence has shown that most adult smokers started smoking at a young age. This means that taking up smoking is a decision made by children, but one that affects them and their loved ones for the rest of their lives.
It is a common misconception by young people that they can experiment with cigarettes without getting addicted. Children often show signs of addiction after 4 weeks of smoking. In a year it is estimated that 2,861 Norfolk children will start smoking, this means that each day 8 children will begin smoking and 56 children every week. This is equal to having two classrooms full of Norfolk children becoming smokers every week - a clear call to action.
If you – or anyone you know – smokes and would like NHS support to quit then you can search online for Smokefree Norfolk or call 0800 0854 113.
Note: The Healthy Norwich campaign is a partnership between NHS Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group, Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council (Public Health) and Broadland District Council