BOLTON'S iconic Victoria Square will become a no-smoking zone this weekend...and it could become permanent.

Spectators visiting the square for the climax of the gruelling Ironman UK competition and its accompanying Ironkids UK event will be encouraged not to smoke. Anyone attempting to light up will get a gentle reminder about the effects of second-hand smoke on nearby children, other people enjoying the event and the competitors themselves.

Bolton Council’s executive cabinet member for wellbeing, Cllr Susan Baines, said: “We know smoking in public has a detrimental impact on people nearby and can also normalise the habit in the eyes of children.

“We welcome the decision to make Ironman UK smokefree and would like to see even more events across Greater Manchester follow their lead in providing a safer and more welcoming environment for families.”

The decision to designate the event smokefree is a response to a major Greater Manchester survey in which 98% of Boltonians said they support no smoking at outdoor events which are specifically for children and families.

The Smokefree Events initiative is just one part of Greater Manchester’s bold ambition to Make Smoking History in the city region within a decade.

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that positive change is already happening in Bolton where the percentage of residents who smoke has dropped 2.6 per cent in two years, from 17.9 per cent in 2016 to 15.3 per cent in 2018. This is much faster than the national average reduction of 1.1per cent.

The majority of people in Victoria Square who the Bolton News spoke to were in favour of the weekend ban.

Stephen Comber, 60, and partner Iwina Jaworske, 48, of Great Lever, said: "Although we smoke ourselves, I think it's a good idea. In fact, IronMan could help me give up. When I'm watching them I'll be thinking how much I'd like to be able to do that but, because of my smoking, I'm out of breath before I even get to the end of the street.

Sophie Barrett, 20, of Deane, said: "To be quite honest, I won't be coming to watch it. I couldn't go a day in the town centre without a cigarette."

Her friend and fellow smoker Dave Summers, 26, of Breightmet, said: "I understand the point of it - there are people with asthma and children so it's not fair to make them suffer but perhaps the organisers should have arranged for few designated smoker shelters."

Apple O'Neill, 49, of The Haulgh, who is cutting down on her smoking habit by using an e-cigarette, said: "Good luck to them trying to police it. Maybe they should be keeping their eyes on more important things."

Susan Lee, 66, who was visiting the town centre from her home in St Helens, said: "I think it's an excellent idea, they should think about having a permanent smoking ban in all town centres.

One competitor from Northern Ireland also welcomed it.

"I wouldn't be able to run properly if I was breathing in other people's smoke."

Looking at her children, Lauren 12, and Ethan, 6, she said: "It's not fair on them either, why should their health suffer because of other people?"