Council takes soft line on smoking

By Martin Johnston

Outright ban in civic areas backed up by bylaws may be years away, which Cancer Society says is too slow

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Beaches, civic plazas and on-street cafes will be made voluntarily smokefree across the Auckland region, under a draft council plan.

But not until 2018, according to the long-awaited draft smokefree policy unveiled yesterday. And the policy would rely on the soft option of simply discouraging smoking for at least five years, with the bite of bylaws shelved for that time.

The Cancer Society says that's just too slow, especially when an opinion poll it commissioned found large majorities in favour of beaches, town centres and outdoor dining areas being smokefree, and 58 per cent support for smokefree bylaws and fines.

The first stage of the draft policy would declare voluntary smokefree areas at parks, playgrounds and around council-branded buildings later this year. Bus shelters and other transport sites would be added in 2015.

Then in 2016 the council would decide whether the greater authority of bylaws was needed, before the final group of public spaces was added in 2018: al fresco dining areas, urban centres, plazas, civic squares and beaches.

Sandra Coney, chairwoman of the council's parks forum, which will debate the draft policy next week, said: "We have never shut the door to the idea of a bylaw action point in future. At this point we have decided after a lot of talk that the best way ahead was to do it as a policy approach.

"I'm unconvinced at the moment that a bylaw would provide the additional weight that would make a difference - but I'm willing to look at it."

Mayor Len Brown said: "At the moment our non-regulatory approach to smokefree public places seems to be heading in the right direction. I wouldn't rule out bylaws at some stage in the future but there is a cost and they aren't easy to enforce."

But Cancer Society Auckland division chief executive John Loof said the draft policy fell short.

"It's not even close to what the public want ... Most of the really important areas don't come in till 2018. That's too far away.

"We encourage the council to take on board the research and the public's view on this and introduce bylaws as soon as practicable."

The former Waitakere and Manukau councils implemented smokefree areas at parks and playgrounds and three Super City local boards in the former Auckland City Council area have introduced similar measures.

Mr Loof said overseas experience showed bylaws were an effective method for smokefree public places.

His research staff say two Sydney councils reported a positive experience of bylaws and A$110 ($133) fines to control their smokefree areas, which include harbour beaches, bus shelters and dining areas on land leased from councils. The smokefree areas had been easy to implement and "overwhelmingly popular".

Up in smoke

Dates for implementation of Auckland Council's draft policy:

September 1
Parks, reserves, playgrounds, skate-parks, sportsfields, outdoor areas at stadiums, libraries, museums and other council-branded buildings.

2015
Train stations and platforms, bus stations, bus shelters and ferry terminals.

2016
Decision on whether bylaw needed.

2018
Outdoor dining areas on council land, urban centres, plazas, civic squares and public beaches.

Note: Smoking is already banned by statute indoors at workplaces.

- NZ Herald

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