Key Points:

This is for a smokefree future generation. Even smokers don't
want their kids to smoke. Toi Te Ora regional manager Graeme Savage

Smoking in Rotorua's public playgrounds and popular Redwoods forest has been banned and a survey shows 85 per cent of residents are happy about it - even though a third of those surveyed were smokers.

A public health service hopes the results will make for a smokefree New Zealand, prompting other councils to make their public places smokefree.

On December 20, lighting up became illegal in 76 playgrounds and the council-owned Tokorangi Triangle - 290ha of the Whakarewarewa Forest which includes the Redwoods.

No-smoking signs in English and Maori were erected.

The policy aims to normalise non-smoking, encourage positive role models for children and create areas where families can enjoy healthy activities.

It follows a similar plan by the Opotiki District Council, which in December 2007 made all council-owned public places - such as beaches, parks, playgrounds, sports fields and reserves - and events smokefree.

A survey of 500 Rotorua residents released yesterday showed 85 per cent of people thought the city's Smokefree Outdoor Spaces Policy was a good idea, 7 per cent disagreed with the policy and 8 per cent were unsure.

A third of the people surveyed by public health service provider Toi Te Ora were smokers.

"The survey shows that Rotorua residents care about the future of our children and young people and want to provide a clean, healthy place to play," Toi Te Ora regional manager Graeme Savage said.

He said there was strong evidence that children were more likely to smoke if they saw many adults doing it and came to believe it was normal.

"This will reduce the chance they will start to smoke," said Mr Savage. "This is for a smokefree future generation. Even smokers don't want their kids to smoke.

"It's not about punishing smokers or telling them they can't smoke. It's about where they smoke, and the opportunity they have to be good role models."

Research will continue next month measuring the effectiveness of the policy, signs and marketing.

Anyone caught smoking in the banned areas will not be penalised, but members of the public are being encouraged to keep an eye out for people breaking the rules.

"This is not about enforcement, and there will be no smoking police patrolling public places," Mr Savage said. "People can be relied upon to act responsibly when it comes to smoking in public."

Toi Te Ora hopes the results of the survey may be used to advocate the benefits of having a smokefree policy for other councils.

Mr Savage said: "We are encouraging all district and city councils to adopt a Smokefree Outdoor Spaces Policy to help make non-smoking the norm and move towards a cleaner and healthier place to live."