Wairarapa councils back smokefree plan

By Hayley Gastmeier hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz -
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A compass Health smokefree campaign invites Wairarapa cafes and restaurants to take part in a three-week smoke-free outdoor dining trial. PHOTO/FILE
A compass Health smokefree campaign invites Wairarapa cafes and restaurants to take part in a three-week smoke-free outdoor dining trial. PHOTO/FILE

A Compass Health smoke-free promotion has gained the support of all three Wairarapa district councils.

The campaign, which will kick off on World Smokefree Day (May 31), invites Wairarapa cafes and restaurants to take part in a three-week smoke-free outdoor dining trial.

Businesses who opt to join will remove ashtrays from their outdoor tables and display smoke-free signs on them instead.

The campaign aims to allow cafe and restaurant owners a chance to assess the impact of smoke-free outdoor dining on their businesses and to gather data by surveying customers at the smoke-free businesses.

People will still have the option to smoke during the trial but they will have to request an ashtray for their table.

Compass Health's Wairarapa health promoter Kathryn Tomlinson said other places around New Zealand had already adopted smoke-free dining, including Palmerston North, whose council also encourage smoke-free streets in the CBD as well as smoke-free parks, retailers and events.

Auckland Council is making similar moves towards a smoke-free city, with the intention that all public places including outdoor eating areas will be smoke-free by May 2018.

"It is currently up to each district council to make decisions at a local policy level for smoke-free environments.

"Cafes and restaurants, of course, can also choose to put up thank-you-for-not-smoking-signs," Ms Tomlinson said.

She said the trial was not to push a "punitive policing on smoking", it was just to encourage people not to smoke.

"Compass Health and the Smokefree Network Wairarapa were interested in running this promotion in light of the success of the NSW smoke-free outdoor dining. Melbourne also has a smoke-free CBD area.

"We thought, 'why wait for national action ... and see what the public of the Wairarapa think about smoke-free outdoor dining'?"

On Wednesday, the South Wairarapa District Council (SWDC) joined Masterton District Council and Carterton District Council in supporting the initiative.

At a SWDC meeting, a motion to support the smoke-free promotion was carried, however, councillors Dean Davies and Julie Riddell both went on the record as voting against the motion.

Mr Davies said he did not understand why the trial was being held during winter.

"Who's actually going to be sitting outside eating?" he said.

"I just think it's ridiculous ... if they were serious, why not try and run this promotion in like December, January, February, when there's a whole heap of tourists around who are actually outside dining?"

Mrs Riddell said she was concerned that the council could be seen as enforcers of a smoke-free policy.

"We are trying to promote business in our community with restaurants and cafes and I think that new policy will get some negative comment from the owners of those places."

Wairarapa District Health Board smoke-free co-ordinator Linda Spence was delighted the region's councils were on board with the promotion.

"Wairarapa needs to join the rest of the country to promote smoke-free outdoor dining spaces. Wellington and Palmerston North are already taking big steps to provide smoke-free outdoor areas -- we need to follow their lead."

Wellington City Council announced last month it was aiming to be the world's first smoke-free capital. From May 31, it will extend smoke-free areas to include Civic Square, bus stops, the Botanic Garden, Waitangi Park, council housing, and council-operated community centres, pools and recreation centres.

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