MAY 31 is World Smokefree Day and a lot has been happening in this space in our district.
In collaboration with the Tobacco Advisory Group (TAG), the Whanganui District Council is reviewing its smokefree policy.

Council's proposed smokefree outdoors policy and bylaw are scheduled to go before the strategy and finance committee on May 25 to be adopted for public consultation.

Informed by the Health and Smokefree Environments Acts, the purpose of the Whanganui outdoor area policy is to give effect to the council's role in ensuring we have healthy communities by reducing the prevalence of smoking.

Subject to change, the proposed policy expands and strengthens the original concept to include all council-managed facilities, smokefree hire, smokefree events, allow for designated outdoor smoking areas, and gives effect to council's ability to advocate for a smokefree district.

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The bylaw's defining purpose is clarified and specific criteria in designating public places as smokefree has been added.

Health stakeholders, including the Healthy Families Whanganui Rangitikei Ruapehu team, have been surveying mainstreet businesses to garner their views on how any policy changes might impact them.

This evidence-based policy shows leadership from council toward the goal of a smokefree Aotearoa by 2025 and aligns with the council objective to "pursue initiatives that secure our health, our safety and instil a sense of belonging and wellbeing for all".

Data supports the need for us to continue to explore and adopt solutions to address our smoking situation.

According to the latest NZ Health Survey, about 1 in 5 Whanganui adults (22 per cent) are current smokers, which is higher than the national average (18 per cent).

The cost of cigarettes continues to rise, with 2016 figures indicating a pack a day habit costs around $8300 per year or about $160 a week.

This is based on pack of 20 at $22.80.

The Whanganui residents' perception of smoking survey found 84 per cent of residents agreed or strongly agreed for the town centres to remain smokefree and 79 per cent of residents agreed or strongly agreed for parks, sports grounds and playgrounds to remain smokefree.

That indicates the majority of us are in favour of the moves touted in the proposed policy and are supportive of creating an environment that makes the healthy choice the easiest one.

We encourage the community to have a say in relation to this policy through the public consultation process.

■If you are interested in ways to make healthy change in your life, check out the Healthy Families Whanganui Rangitikei Ruapehu website and join the movement to create a culture where the healthy choice is the easy choice where we live, learn, work and play.