Boris Johnson has described proposals to ban smoking in parks as “bossy and nannying”, while Downing Street said there are no plans to implement the measure across the UK.
The mayor of London set himself at odds with a recommendation from a health panel he set up that would make thousands of acres of parkland in London and landmarks including Trafalgar Square smoke-free zones.
The suggestion was outlined in a report released today and its author, cancer specialist Lord Darzi, who was appointed to chair the London Health Commission by Mr Johnson, said they could become a blueprint for the rest of Britain.
But the mayor said: “This idea in my view, as a libertarian conservative, comes down too much on the side of bossiness and nannying.
“One feature of life in London is that we are a city that allows people to get on with their lives within the law provided they are not harming anyone else.
“I think smoking is a scourge and it’s right to discourage it (but) I am very sceptical at the moment.”
He drew on personal experience as he described his opposition: “I have to think back to my own life two decades ago when my wife and I had a baby.
“It came to that point when everybody was asleep and I was in such a mood of absolute elation I wondered out into a park in Islington and it was in the middle of winter but I laid on the ground and had a cigar.
“I don’t want to be in a city where somebody can stand over me and say you’ve got to pay £115 for doing something that is of no harm to anybody except me.”
He insisted there is “a great deal in this superb report that we can take forward”.
There appeared to be no appetite from the Government to roll out a ban on smoking in parks nationally.
Asked whether David Cameron would back a ban on smoking in public parks, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: “The Government has no plans for that.”
Local government minister Kris Hopkins said: “All local taxpayers, including smokers, should be able to enjoy the use of municipal parks, provided they show social responsibility towards others.”