Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Ban public smoking, official urges

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Hastings should adopt a bylaw banning smoking in all public areas, Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers says.

Ms Bowers' comments follow new research calling for smoke-free bus stops and train stations to protect people from second-hand cigarette smoke.

The Otago University research, which observed nearly 5000 adults and adolescents in Britain and New Zealand, found more than one in 10 Kiwis lit up while waiting for public transport. Only 7 per cent of Britons were observed smoking at outdoor transport waiting areas.

The harmful effects of second-hand smoke justified extending outdoor area smoking bans, lead researcher Associate Professor George Thomson said.

Ms Bowers said obeying anti-smoking signs at parks, playgrounds and sports fields was only voluntary.

"I think that we need to be following the lead of quite a few other councils like Hamilton City which have actually banned smoking in public places," Ms Bowers said. Dr Thomson said smoking bans in outdoor waiting areas had several benefits.

"People are realising more and more that if they see people smoking around them, it's harder for smokers to stop smoking, it's harder for ex-smokers to stay quit and for children and young people who might think about starting smoking, it becomes much more normal if they see it around them," he said.

Smokefree policies could also reduce councils' city maintenance costs, Dr Thomson said.

Wellington city research previously revealed thousands of cigarette butts contaminated drains around its harbour.

Otago University's research showed no New Zealanders were observed smoking in playgrounds, compared to 2.8 per cent of Britons. However, researchers did find cigarette butts in playgrounds here.

Dr Thomson said whilst most parks, playgrounds and sports grounds were smokefree in New Zealand, we still had a long way to go.

Local authorities in Australia, Japan and California have policies protecting people from second-hand smoke at outdoor transport waiting areas, he said.

However, Action on Smoking and Health director Ben Youdan said a heavy-handed approach to smoke-free outdoor policies was not needed.

He said increasing the tobacco tax, supporting quit programmes and "substantially reducing the powers of the tobacco industry to promote a deadly product" were essential in moving towards a smoke-free country.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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