Town councils are imposing smoking bans on open-air spaces such as municipal playgrounds and football pitches, pre-empting the Government's long-awaited proposals on a national smoking ban.

Local authorities including Middlesbrough are taking matters into their own hands, with the Teeside council announcing it intends to outlaw smoking at bus stops, children's play areas, public parks and football pitches. Derwentside council in Co Durham has also banned smoking in municipal parks and playgrounds.

Local bans are not legally enforceable, but the Middlesbrough and Derwentside authorities hope prominent "No smoking" signs and a publicity campaign will encourage people to abide by the rules, and build public support.

A spokesman for the campaign group Smoke Free North East said: "It is fantastic. What we are all trying to do is set an example and demonstrate smoking is not the social norm."

Liverpool could be the first city in England to have a fully enforced " smoke-free" law. A campaign group of local businesses, the regional NHS and the council is backing the Liverpool SmokeFree Bill that had its second reading in the House of Lords last month. The Bill would ban smoking in all offices, pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants and all "enclosed public areas". It still has to progress through a Lords committee then the Commons, but campaigners hope it could become law by next summer. The Liverpool Bill goes further than the position the Government has adopted.

Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, has set out proposals that would ban smoking in workplaces and enclosed public spaces by 2007, with an extension to restaurants and pubs that serve food by 2008. Smokers caught breaking the rules would be fined £50, with £200 punishments for companies and organisations that fail to enforce the ban. But pubs that do not serve food - about 9,000 in England - would be exempt, and the issue of what exactly constitutes a "public space" is the subject of a consultation period.

Gideon Ben-Tovim, co-chair of the SmokeFree Liverpool campaign group, said: "There is a strongly held view that the Government's proposals don't go far enough and will only worsen health inequalities in the most deprived areas. That is why we think it is so important to press ahead with our own Bill."

Scotland is to introduce a country-wide ban from 2006, and legislation in Ireland has already been successfully implemented.

A spokesman for the pro-smoking lobby group Forest said: "It really does attack people's civil liberties."