A smoke-free campaigner wants Whangarei District Council to commit to being a smoke-free district by 2025 and to even look at introducing a smoking ban in the CBD and restricting where tobacco can be sold.
Professor Richard Edwards, Head of Otago University's Department of Public Health, gave a presentation to councillors last week, praising the council's smoke-free policies so far, but urging them to do more.
He said the Government has declared a goal of a smoke-free New Zealand by 2025 - which really meant less than 5 per cent of the population smoking - and the council was doing great work towards that target, including declaring the district's bus stops, parks and children's playgrounds smoke-free. But, he said, the council could take things even further.
Professor Edwards told the Northern Advocate it would be a brave move by the WDC to implement either of his suggestions as a policy.
The council voted to receive his report and Mayor Sheryl Mai said there were many things the council could do towards the 2025 target.
"I'm committed to looking at further policies to play our part in heading towards a smoke-free New Zealand in 2025 because I do care about our community and don't want people dying as a result of a hazard that can be avoided," Ms Mai said.
Professor Edwards said Auckland and Hawkes Bay councils were leading the country with their smoke-free policies, but WDC was not far behind.
"The council has a policy banning the consumption of alcohol in the CBD and could introduce a bylaw banning tobacco from those areas too.
"And just like the council is looking at a LAPP (locally approved products policy) that is quite draconian and limits where psychoactive substances can be sold, it can do the same for tobacco," Professor Edwards said.
"They could say anybody wanting to sell tobacco needs a licence from the council and, for example, that they can't be sold within 500 metres of a school. The Local Government Act saying a council can make bylaws for protecting, promoting and maintaining public health and safety while the Health Act said 'it is the duty of every local authority to improve, promote and protect public health within its district' - so there are the legal teeth there to help.
"They can go further and have smoke-free outdoor dining; smoke-free beaches and shopping malls and all council-run events or events on council-run land to be smoke-free."
Northland has the fifth highest smoking rate in New Zealand, with more than 18 per cent of the adult population regular smokers.