Residents and representatives from the Northland Cancer Society, Whangārei District Council and Northland District Health Board gathered yesterday to inaugurate New Zealand's first smokefree residential street.
Graham St and neighbouring Huapai St in Kensington are officially a smokefree area after a community-led initiative launched by resident Len Thompson.
The retired air force doctor had surveyed his neighbours to see if they would support his idea and a vast majority – 80 per cent – agreed.
"The 20 per cent who didn't agree didn't want to put pressure on smokers," Thompson said.
He says: "It's about protecting our community from second hand-smoke and providing supportive environments for those stopping smoking.
"This won't be policed. We're relying on the public to look at this."
Resident Marge Proctor has been living on Graham St for 21 years and describes the smokefree zone as a "wonderful idea".
Thompson's nephew had provided a stencil that Thompson used to spray paint smokefree signs on the entrances of Graham St on Monday.
Rebecca Gilbert, Cancer Society Northland health promoter, says the society was excited to be part of the event.
"This is another great step towards Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 which is the key area that we focus on," Gilbert said.
"As the Cancer Society, we align ourselves with projects that work towards that goal.
"That being said, this is a purely community-driven initiative. Len and the other residents are working towards creating a better future."
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in New Zealand, accounting for around 4300 to 4700 deaths per year.
Second-hand smoke is also a serious, often under-estimated, public health issue, especially for children and can cause up to 700 deaths annually.
The Cancer Society says that there was no risk-free level of second-hand smoke exposure; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.
NDHB's Smokefree Advisor Bridget Rowse congratulated Thompson, the residents and the entire community for becoming the first-ever smoke-free residential street in New Zealand.
"Creating more smokefree environments will support people who want to quit smoking," Rowse said.
The NDHB and Thompson are currently looking into running courses in Kensington to help people who want to quit smoking as part of the Toki Rau stop smoking service.
The health board offers free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in individual sessions, or whanau and group settings, and supply nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges.