Smoking ban proposed for Auckland

By Amelia Wade, Wayne Thompson

Parks, stadiums, streets and malls are all included in smoke-free plan. Photo / NZ Herald
Parks, stadiums, streets and malls are all included in smoke-free plan. Photo / NZ Herald

Health bosses want the Auckland Council to ban smoking in all public outdoor areas in the city in a bid to stop children picking up the habit.

The proposed ban would include the city centre, parks, playgrounds, sports grounds, stadiums, parts of beaches, council-controlled land such as around the Auckland Museum and art gallery, and events supported by the council, such as Pasifika.

The proposal from Andy Roche and Dr Lavinia Perumal, of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, is backed by the Auckland, Counties-Manukau and Waitemata district health boards.

They say the council should comply with the Cancer Society's request to restrict cigarette or tobacco smoking in its open spaces, parks, sports fields and playgrounds, as well as in malls and pedestrian areas.

"We are disappointed that the council's commitment to having smoke-free public spaces is lacking in the Draft Plan, and believe a smoke-free policy that covers the entire Auckland Council region should be implemented to ban outdoor smoking in order to protect children from second-hand smoke ...

and ultimately to prevent uptake of smoking among young people," the pair wrote.

The proposal said the council should also consider banning smoking in the Auckland city centre and other town centres in the region.

They quoted a study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, which found the highest second-hand smoking hazard was at outdoor smoking areas of hospitality venues, followed by areas inside bars next to outdoor smoking areas.

Health service compliance officers also often received complaints about air flow between outdoor smoking areas and inside hospitality venues.

An Auckland Council meeting in July last year rejected councillor George Wood's bid to have smokers banned from gathering in front of buildings in the city.

He said those going outside for "a quick fix in their break" were blowing smoke all over the footpath.

The council's social and community development forum then rejected a proposal for a smoking ban near bus stops, ferry wharves and train stations.

Yesterday, Mr Wood said he had his "nose bloodied" when other councillors refused to support him, but he had not given up.

The Auckland Council last year referred any decisions on smoking bans in public areas to the city's 21 local boards.

Cancer Society Auckland chief executive John Loof said yesterday that 12 local boards had adopted SmokeFree Auckland policies, starting with local playgrounds and parks.

A survey by the Cancer Society showed 96.2 per cent of local board members supported smoke-free bus and train stations and 92.3 per cent wanted bans at playgrounds.

Mr Loof said this result was in line with a survey of Mt Smart Stadium patrons, which showed 90 per cent supported making the sport and entertainment venue smoke-free.

"Research shows that when children see others smoking they are more likely to become smokers themselves," he said.

"With 14 years being the average age that children start smoking - and 11 years for Maori - we have to take action.

"We need to stop our kids starting to smoke so we can reduce cancer deaths in our community."

Auckland Council member Cameron Brewer said the real epidemic the city faced was obesity, not smoking.

"I'd rather hope that the public health service would support those of us calling for more sports fields, rather than trying to root out the last of the die-hard smokers.

"Smokers have got to smoke somewhere and if you try to introduce an outdoor ban, all that will do is see more retreat inside, lighting up in the family home or car, which is much more damaging to non-smokers.

"You could spend hundreds of thousands on promoting and sign-posting Auckland as smoke-free, but how are you ever going to enforce it?"

Mr Brewer said the best way to further reduce smoking rates was for the Ministry of Health to keep up its education campaign and for the Government to keep increasing the excise tax.

"That's what works. Municipal meddling over the years hasn't made one bit of difference," he said.

Heart of the City business association chief executive Alex Swney supported the proposed ban, and said enterprises in the central business district would find a way to bounce back.

"It would be different if it was just the CBD that was singled out, because that would become a branding issue, but this would be inclusive of all Auckland."

Mr Swney compared the proposed ban to the prohibition on smoking in bars and restaurants.

When that was imposed, he said, people "thought the world was going to end".

"But now it seems almost obscene that someone would light up in a restaurant. This would be the same as that - it's just evolution."

Hospitality New Zealand upper North Island manager Astrid Fisher said a ban would unfairly affect city centre bars and restaurants.

"It would stop a large portion of the public that do enjoy smoking when they're out from frequenting their business."

The association would prefer to let the market and businesses dictate whether they allowed smoking on their premises rather than having it forced upon them.

Public opinion:

SOPHIE FRASER
She has been a smoker for "too long" and plans to quit - but said the ban plan was hypocritical. "If you want to ban smoking, just ban it. Just make it illegal and stop selling it, instead of making it so hard to do it anywhere. They're going to make it illegal to smoke outside soon. And then it will be like, 'Okay, you can only smoke in your homes.'

MIKE SHATURA
The restaurant chef said that with his wife "due just about any day", he planned to kick his 10-year habit, and thought the ban would help others to do the same. "It will make my life easier as well, I think ... There will obviously be some angry people who will feel discriminated against. But it is what it is."

BEN BAYLY
The restaurant head chef quit smoking 18 months ago and said any move to marginalise smoking was a good one. "It's all about the environment. If people aren't in a smoking environment, they're less likely to smoke. It's just the same as banning alcohol on the streets to me."

- NZ Herald

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