“PLEASE don’t smoke in our parks.”

That is the plea from two Southampton schoolgirls as the city takes one step closer to becoming smoke-free.

City health bosses are eager to stop adults smoking in public spaces and children’s parks in a bid to protect children and prevent premature deaths.

This month new signs will be erected in our parks and public spaces, urging smokers to think twice before they light up.

It comes as latest figures reveal that smoking rates in Southampton are higher than the national average, with 22.6 per cent of adults smoking, compared to 20 per cent nationally.

Opportunity It is part of a wider smoke-free city initiative that health bosses will discuss later this month.

Councillor Dave Shields, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “We welcome the opportunity for local government to lead action to tackle smoking and improve the health and wellbeing of local people.

“By encouraging people not to smoke in enclosed play areas, we can protect our children.

“The initiative acts as a step toward our city becoming smoke-free and in the process, saving the city some money.”

The signs have been designed by two pupils from Newlands Primary School, Chloe Fish and Tia Douglas, who won a poster competition launched by Southampton City Council.

Their creations were unveiled with the help of Saints player Calum Chambers, who is backing the campaign to get city parks smoke-free.

Tia, 9, said: “By not allowing smoking in parks, it means no cigarette butts lying around for kids to find and less mess and litter around bins.

“Sometimes bins have that bit on the top for smokers to put their cigarettes out on and kids then end up putting their fingers in it, which is disgusting.”

Chloe, 10, added: “I entered the competition as I think it’s important parks are kept smoke-free because it will keep children healthier and also set a good example to them by not smoking.”