Taxpayer-funded health officials are calling on the Government to increase tobacco tax and ban smoking in many outdoor public areas such as beaches.

The call from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service for a range of tough measures comes in its submission to the Maori affairs select committee's forthcoming inquiry into the tobacco industry and the effects of tobacco use on Maori.

Hopes are high among public health campaigners that the inquiry will re-frame debate on tobacco and make it easier for the Government to adopt radical measures to make New Zealand smokefree within 10 years.

The Auckland service wants the law banning indoor smoking at workplaces extended to playgrounds, outdoor eating areas, beaches, the area outside buildings, cars when a child aged less than 16 is present, public transport stops and pedestrian malls.

These measures would greatly reduce smoking opportunities for workers and bar patrons, who have been forced outside or onto the street by the smokefree environments law.

The regional public health service is funded by the Auckland, Waitemata and Counties Manukau district health boards and the Health Ministry. The Waitemata DHB has already endorsed its approach.

Health Minister Tony Ryall referred inquiries to Associate Health Minister and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia.

She could not be reached, but has previously indicated that she wants an above-inflation tobacco tax rise and other measures to reduce smoking.

Prime Minister John Key has said a tax increase on tobacco may be considered in this year's Budget.

The call to ban smoking in many public places comes as an increasing number of local authorities are putting up signs asking people not to smoke in areas used by children, such as playgrounds, sports fields and beaches.

Auckland University banned outdoor smoking at its campuses from last month, adding to the statutory indoor ban.

Smokefree Coalition director Prudence Stone said many countries, including Finland, Canada and Puerto Rico, as well as several Australian states, had made it illegal to smoke in cars carrying children.

And significant tobacco tax increases designed to reduce smoking rates were planned this year in Greece, Bulgaria, Japan, France, the European Union and the American state of Washington.

STUBBING IT OUT
The recommendations:

* Ban smokers from outdoor public areas such as beaches.
* Increase tobacco tax by 5 per cent plus inflation per year.
* Dedicate portion of tobacco tax take to tobacco control and quit-smoking services.
* Ban tobacco vending machines.
* License tobacco retailers.
* Compel tobacco firms to disclose product specifications and marketing strategies.

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING: NZPA