SMOKERS are being asked to keep their second-hand smoke away from children's play areas in a new 'voluntary ban' in effect across Oxford.

Stickers have been put up by Oxford City Council in all of its 87 play areas asking parents and carers who smoke to avoid doing so for as long as they are there.

It follows a three-month trial in Cutteslowe Park, Florence Park and Sandfield Road that found just the presence of a sign was enough to put some people off.

Linda Smith, the council's board member for leisure, parks and sport, said: "It seemed like common sense.

"We had feedback from parents about anto-social behaviour in play areas and smoking was one of them.

"This is a step other local authorities have taken. These areas are maintained by the council and it's making it clear to users we don't think it's acceptable."

Research by national charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found that children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke exposure.

A report in 2014 found that second-hand smoke is linked to illnesses in children such as asthma, invasive meningococcal disease and unexpected death in infancy.

For the time being the council is not considering a public spaces protection order (PSPO) or any type of fine to enforce the 'ban'.

Ms Smith, who has two sons, Ben, five, and Jed, 11, added: "It's something we need to keep an eye on.

"I don't think a PSPO is necessary at the moment; it's just asking people to respect other users and respect the children playing."

The measure only covers fenced-off, designated children's play areas, not general green spaces or play equipment that is scattered around parks.

Between July and September last year the council trialled the measure and carried out a consultation with Oxford residents and park users.

It found 71 per cent agreed the ban had improved their play experience, and 87.6 per cent would like a permanent voluntary smoking ban.

Families using the play equipment in Oatlands Road Recreation Ground, Ferry Hinksey Road, on Wednesday had mixed reactions to the move.

Vanessa Rice, 43, who has two children, age seven and nine, said: "I hate smoking so I think it's a good idea.

"Unless it's illegal there's not much you can do. I would like to see a penalty introduced; it's inconsiderate to smoke around children, or anybody for that matter."

Alex Thomas, a father-of-three from Botley, said: "I suspect it's a good idea in terms of encouraging children not to see smokers as a norm."

But the 34-year-old said he 'wouldn't mind' if he saw people smoking in play areas, adding: "I think it's entirely their right.

"There are enough places smokers aren't allowed to smoke and if a parent needs a cigarette to get through an hour in the playground on a cold November day, fair enough."