Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

City survey shows support for ban on smoking in parks

New smokefree policies could mean a ban in both parks and playgrounds. Photo / NZ Herald
New smokefree policies could mean a ban in both parks and playgrounds. Photo / NZ Herald

Cigarettes could be stubbed out of Hamilton playgrounds and parks under a new smokefree policy to be considered by the council in August.

A Waikato coalition group working against smoking, known as Chances, and the Waikato Bay of Plenty Cancer Society are also urging the city council to enforce a non-smoking rule across parks, playgrounds and bus shelters after unprecedented public support.

The calls coincide with a proposal from Auckland health bosses to the Auckland Council to 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.

A survey of 111 residents at Hamilton Lake and Innes Common playgrounds, the city bus station and Waikato University in mid-2011 found 94 per cent wanted children's playgrounds to be smokefree.

There was also large support for rolling it out across the bus shelters and the bus terminal on Anglesea St.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Cancer Society health promotion manager Melanie Desmarais said they wanted those public areas to be kept smoke-free to reduce the exposure of smoking to teenagers. Of the 19,000 new smokers every year, 90 per cent were children and young people.

Ms Desmarais hoped Hamilton City Council would act as a role model for other Waikato councils as the country made small steps towards becoming smoke free by 2025.

The Waikato Stadium and the Hamilton Zoo are already smokefree and more than 30 New Zealand councils including Rotorua and Opotiki District Councils have had smokefree policies for several years.

Hamilton City Council strategy and policy committee chair Maria Westphal said the committee would consider a policy in August. "This is a matter which has significant public interest and we'll certainly be ensuring we get the views of individuals and groups as part of any process."

The Waikato DHB is also waiting on a response to a request last June to make Pembroke and Selwyn Sts smokefree because of the large number of people who congregated there.

Waikato DHB spokeswoman Mary Anne Gill said it was a bad look having so many people smoking along the street just outside the busy hospital. "Ideally we would love all of the streets outside the hospital to be smokefree."

Mrs Westphal said the DHB's request to make roads smokefree could be "quite challenging".

Rotorua's playgrounds have been smokefree since 2008 and the ban is slowly being rolled out to other council facilities, grounds and playgrounds.

Rotorua District Council parks and recreation manager Garry Page said the eventualquest was for all areas in the city to be smokefree to teach youth smoking was not socially acceptable.

"We are looking at changing the culture instead of having smokefree grounds. We will change that around and [then] look at getting smoking zones."

He said peer pressure from responsible users had worked as the best enforcement tool rather than ticketing people who were breaking the rules.

- NZ Herald

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