By RUTH BERRY, Political Reporter

Far-reaching changes to smoking laws passed in Parliament last night will slash the number of people dying from second-hand smoke every year and will invigorate, not destroy, the hospitality industry, say supporters.

The Smokefree Environments Amendment Bill, which will ban smoking in schools, bars and other workplaces, was passed 68-52 in Parliament last night.

The bill's sponsor, Labour MP Steve Chadwick, said the law would reduce deaths, disability and hospital admissions caused by second-hand smoking, and was also likely to encourage more smokers to quit.

The bill was not anti-smokers, but rather in favour of improving people's health, she said.

About 388 people a year died from second-hand smoke, about the same number as died on the roads.

Steve Chadwick said 90 per cent of New Zealanders supported comprehensive protection from second-hand smoke.

Green MP Sue Kedgley said that despite the nay-sayers, the changes would create a renaissance rather than a collapse of the hospitality industry "as customers revel in the new, clean, green environment".

This had occurred in California and New York after similar law changes, she said.

Workers were entitled to protection from the hazards of second-hand smoke, just as they expected to be protected from hazards such as asbestos.

Pita Paraone, the only New Zealand First MP to vote for the bill, said he did so with "severe misgivings".

It was promoted by a Government which "thinks it knows best" and had been unwilling to consider better alternatives and which might not stop until the entire country was declared smokefree.

But he had finally decided to support it because he wanted to arrest the number of people, particularly Maori, smoking.

National MP Paul Hutchison, one of two National MPs who supported the bill, said that as a former obstetrician he had seen too many children, born to smoking mothers, whose health had suffered.

He criticised MPs such as United Future leader Peter Dunne for referring to "health nazis" and for failing to understand that compromise measures they had proposed, such as the stepped-up use of ventilation systems, were "just not effective".

National MP David Carter, who opposed the bill, said he was an asthmatic who disliked smoky environments.

But he believed freedom was about having the choice not to enter a smoky bar - not about getting rid of smoking bars altogether.

Act was the only party whose MPs, all non-smokers, all voted against the bill.

Act MP Heather Roy said it was not advocating smoking, but believed people had the right to choose, despite the risks.

The vote

* Labour, Progressives and the Greens: all in favour. Act: all opposed.

* Independent Donna Awatere: opposed.

* National: opposed except the two doctors, Paul Hutchison and Lynda Scott.

* NZ First: opposed except Pita Paraone.

* United Future: opposed except Judy Turner and Murray Smith.

Herald Feature: Health

Related links