Smoke free places seen as normal

By Peter de Graaf

A low number of prosecutions since a ban on smoking in pubs and workplaces came into force shows how the law has become an accepted part of everyday life, the Health Ministry says.

This week the Advocate revealed the ministry had dropped its prosecution of Kaikohe Hotel owner Neal Summers, sparked by complaints about smoking in his pub in 2007. Mr Summers' company, Rightside Properties, was twice found guilty in judge-only trials in the Kaikohe District Court. In the first case the verdict was thrown out because Mr Summers was not present to defend himself; in the second, the judge had a stroke before he could write up his ruling.

The ministry decided against pursuing a third trial due to the "unreasonable delay" since the initial complaint and because there had been no further complaints since 2008.

Acting Deputy Director-General Ashley Bloomfield said smoke-free pubs and clubs were now "part of the fabric of our society". The prosecution of the Kaikohe Hotel was the only one so far in Northland. Across the country there had been six convictions since the law came into force in 2004, the highest fine amounting to $9000 plus court costs in 2005.

The Smoke-free Environments Act was passed in 1990. Smoking was banned in workplaces and licensed premises from December 10, 2004.

- Northern Advocate

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