Editorial: Stub out public smokers

By Scott Inglis

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I'm ashamed to admit I used to smoke.

I started when I was in my late teens and didn't quit until I was in my mid-20s.

They were years when I thought I was bullet proof, that whatever I did then wouldn't matter later on when I was older.

My mates did it and it was simply an accepted thing in the late 1980s, and early '90s.

I can vividly remember the day I stopped.

It was a Tuesday just over 14 years ago and I had read the book by stop-smoking guru Allen Carr in one sitting.

I have never smoked since.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

I regret that I used to light up. What on earth was I thinking? Was I mad? Clearly. I wonder how many other smokers also regret it.

So, it was with interest that I read today's story about city plans to put major pressure on people not to smoke in public areas.

Tauranga City Council has agreed to look at introducing the policy in outdoor areas across the city - shaming smokers into stubbing out in places such as beaches, playgrounds, sportsgrounds, skateparks, bus stops and walkways.

Signs would be put up to remind people not to smoke.

While the smokefree policy, if adopted, would not mean it is illegal to smoke in these areas, such a move is still likely to be controversial.

But I think it's a good move, and here's why.

I have lost count of how many times I have been in public and had to put up with people's filthy smoke - smoke that has just been blown out their nostrils, or is wafting from the tip of their cigarette - going up my nose.

It's disgusting and inconsiderate. How is this different to, say, shouting at someone on the street? It's offensive and unnecessary.

The facts on smoking are well documented.

According to the facethefacts.org.nz, one in two long-term smokers, who do not quit smoking, will die early from a smoking-related illness.

Smokers are twice as likely than non-smokers to die when they are in middle age.

It is estimated that 5000 New Zealanders die each year as a result of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke.

Second-hand smoke can also be lethal and is very relevant to this argument.

It claims about 350 New Zealanders every year. One non-smoker a day dies as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke.

The website says toxins, including cancer-causing chemicals, in sidestream smoke (smoke from the burning end of a cigarette) are more highly concentrated than those in smoke exhaled by a smoker.

Many readers will recall Bay of Plenty Times articles on former Tauranga supermarket manager David Simm, 64. He never smoked but died from lung cancer after what he described as years of putting up with second-hand smoke in the workplace.

Given all this medical evidence, the council's move to follow other cities and towns by shaming smokers in public places makes a lot of sense.

Times have changed. People are more aware and becoming more considerate. Smoking has already been banned inside the workplace and at pubs. Remember all the fuss when these laws were introduced?

These days hardly anyone mentions it. It is simply accepted that smoking is not healthy or respectful to non-smokers nearby.

But the council move, while good, does not go far enough.

The government should just make smoking in public areas illegal.

I have no doubt that many people - smokers and non-smokers - will scream in disagreement, and that's their right.

They will say this move is oppressive and disregards people's rights.

I am not objecting to people's rights to smoke. That's their business, although some would argue they are an unacceptable burden to the health system.

But I have rights too.

It's my right not to be confronted by their deadly smoke when I am in public.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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