NorthTec called on to stop smoking

By Jessica Roden

Taniwha rugby players Jordan Olsen, Filipo Nakosi and Vili Tahitua help promote Stoptober. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Taniwha rugby players Jordan Olsen, Filipo Nakosi and Vili Tahitua help promote Stoptober. Photo / Michael Cunningham

A national quit-smoking campaign has rolled into NorthTec's Whangarei campus amid concerns the polytech is refusing to go smokefree.

A giant, inflatable, red Stop ball visited as part of a monthlong campaign promoting Stoptober, a challenge to get as many Kiwis as possible to quit smoking for October that kicked off in Kaitaia on Monday.

However, some staff at NorthTec are frustrated the tertiary institute has rejected suggestions to ban smoking, despite most major tertiary providers in New Zealand having bans in place. Organiser for the Tertiary Education Union Chan Dixon said she was aware concerns about smoking on the campus had been raised by staff.

The many staff she had spoken to were worried about the health impacts and thought it created a bad impression, Ms Dixon said. Even though there were designated smoking areas there was no policing of them, she said.

Smokers were asked to keep to certain areas in NorthTec including a smoking hut between the nursing school and cafeteria.

Smoke could easily drift into classrooms and gathering areas, Ms Dixon said. The smoking hut was a bit of a "hangover from the old days".

NorthTec chief executive Paul Binney said he did not agree the tertiary institute needed a total ban on smoking, but admitted some changes should be made.

"Whilst personally I don't smoke and share the desire of many of the submitters for fit and healthy staff and students, I do have practical concerns over a total ban," Mr Binney said.

Anybody who thought banning smoking would result in no one smoking was "not living in reality", he said. A smoking ban would mean people smoking off campus, which was not a good look, Mr Binney said.

NorthTec planned to move the current smoking hut to a less-populated area and to install tamperproof receptacles for cigarette butts, he said.

"This, in particular, is to stop children raiding the current containers," Mr Binney said.

If smokers continued to litter the smoking areas the right to smoke at NorthTec would be removed, he said. The University of Auckland, Waikato University, Wellington Institute of Technology and Auckland University of Technology are a few examples of smokefree campuses. Others such as Aoraki Polytechnic also allow designated smoking areas.

Organiser of Stoptober Boyd Broughton said smokefree campuses encouraged people not to smoke.

Stoptober was being promoted this month as the ball travelled the length of the country but officially started on October 1. During October it was hoped 40,000 people would register online to quit smoking.

"[If they do it] then they have a really good chance of staying smokefree for the rest of their lives," Mr Broughton said.

For more information on how to join Stoptober visit:

About 5000 New Zealanders, 600 of them Maori, die every year from tobacco-related causes, health figures show.

Tobacco was related to a quarter of deaths in Northland and 47 per cent of Maori deaths in the region and was a major factor in the difference of 14.9 years in life expectancy between Maori and non-Maori in the North. In Northland smoking-related admissions to hospital were 1.5 times higher than the national rate. An average smoker who quit could save more than $2000 a year.

The Government's goal is for New Zealand to be smokefree - which really means less than 5 per cent of the population smoking - by 2025.

- Northern Advocate

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