Auckland Zoo will ban smoking from Saturday, riding the growing wave of opposition to lighting up at outdoor venues.

Smoking is banned by law indoors at all workplaces and everywhere - both indoors and outdoors - at schools and early childhood centres.

Now a growing number of outdoor venues, universities and polytechnics are choosing to ban smoking. Nearly a third of city and district councils actively discourage smoking in their playgrounds and sports fields, mainly by putting up signs.

Some organisations perceive that smoking in public places is becoming less acceptable and want to be seen as supporting healthy lifestyles.

"Auckland Zoo will take a leadership role in providing a healthy environment for family outings," said its sales and visitor services manager, Natalie Hansby.

Zoo patrons who want to smoke there will be allowed to do so only in a designated, covered area adjacent to the carpark and front entrance where an ash-tray will be provided; and they will be given a re-entry pass. If they light up elsewhere at the Auckland City Council-owned facility, they will be asked to stop; if they refuse, they will be asked to leave until they have finished their smoke.

"The experience of other zoos and similar attractions which have gone smokefree is that people are generally very compliant," Ms Hansby said.

The zoo's move was prompted in part by visitors expressing their surprise and disappointment that it isn't already smokefree. In February alone, five visitors complained that their visit was made less enjoyable by others smoking nearby.

The daughter of a sixth complainant received minor burns when a smoker accidentally touched his lighted cigarette to her arm.

Eden Park Trust's general manager of operations, Steve Donaghy, said the park was smokefree, apart from designated smoking areas near the carparks. If someone was seen smoking in the stands, security guards would ask them to stop. Refusal would lead to their being ejected, but this happened only rarely.

Surveys by the Health Sponsorship Council show yearly increases in public opposition to smoking at sports fields, reaching 52 per cent in 2007. A new question that year found 76 per cent considered smoking "not at all acceptable" at children's outdoor playgrounds.

In an Otago University survey of smokers, 66 per cent said smoking should not be allowed at council-owned playgrounds.

The Manukau and Waitakere city councils have put up signs asking people not to smoke in parks, particularly those used by children.

Zoo board chairman Graeme Mulholland, an Auckland City Council member, said he would like his council to follow suit.

A council officer last night said Auckland City had no concrete plans to do so, although it was watching the developments elsewhere and had discussed the issue.

SMOKEFREE OUTDOORS
Auckland Zoo: Smoking to be banned, except for designated area beside carpark. Staff permitted to smoke in certain staff-only areas.
Museum of Transport and Technology: Complete ban.
Eden Park: Banned, except for designated areas near carparks.
Alexandra Park: Permitted in open spaces, but generally not in stands except in a designated area.
Auckland University: Complete ban.
Otago Polytechnic: Complete ban from next Monday.
* 21 city and district councils actively discourage smoking in their parks.