Opotiki residents are either smoking less or taking their cigarettes in private, a recent clean-up of public parks suggests.

A year after the small eastern Bay of Plenty town started its Smokefree Outdoor Spaces policy, there has been a 60 per cent drop in the number of cigarette butts collected from public areas.

Toi Te Ora Public Health staff counted 450 cigarette butts in five parks - Memorial Park, Rose Garden, Princess St Reserve, John Burdett Park and Skate Park - in January compared with 1200 last year.

The collection aimed to measure the success of the smokefree policy, which came into effect in March 2008.

"The number of cigarette butts collected is down nearly two-thirds, it is great news," said Toi Te Ora Public Health regional manager Graeme Savage.

"It shows that Opotiki residents care about the future of our children and young people and want to provide a clean, healthy place to play. What a great way to mark the one year anniversary of Opotiki going smokefree in public spaces."

The Opotiki District Council became the first in the Bay of Plenty to introduce a smokefree policy covering outdoor recreational areas, meaning council-owned playgrounds, parks, sports fields, reserves, gardens and beaches.

It is a moral rather than legal ban which authorities had hoped would deter smokers from lighting up or at least make them accountable to others.

The policy aims to normalise non-smoking and encourage positive role models for children and young people in Opotiki district.

"Evidence shows that children and young adults learn from observing others and tend to follow the behaviour of role models," Mr Savage said.

South Taranaki District Council introduced a smokefree policy for parks and reserves in May 2005, followed by Upper Hutt about a year later, and Taranaki in August 2007.

But the Opotiki policy is believed to be the most wide-ranging, with the smokefree areas including beaches overseen by the council.

Rotorua District Council introduced its own smokefree policy in December, banning smoking in public playgrounds and the popular Redwoods forest.

A survey found 85 per cent of residents approved - even though a third of those surveyed were smokers.