Whanganui's ineffective anti-smoking measures have come under the spotlight at a council committee meeting.

Up for discussion was the proposed Smokefree Outdoor Areas policy.

It extends Whanganui District Council's anti-smoking ethos to include all council-managed facilities, smokefree hire, smokefree events and allow for designated outdoor smoking areas.

One of the measures is to ensure smokers don't congregate directly outside smokefree venues, causing an issue.

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At Thursday's strategy and finance committee meeting, councillors were also asked to consider revoking the 2010 smokefree bylaw because it had proven to be an ineffective tool to reduce smoking due to its "narrow scope, lack of implementation and diluted council leadership and advocacy".

Regional Health Network figures show the number of people smoking in Whanganui has increased in the past three years by 2 per cent to 19.3 per cent - and this during a period when the national rate decreased.

Nationally, the Ministry of Health has admitted it is unlikely to achieve its Smokefree 2025 target, which aimed to reduce smoking prevalence to "minimal levels"in the next decade.

About 17 per cent of Kiwis still smoke at least monthly.

Councillor Helen Craig questioned whether the council was doing the job of the Whanganui District Health Board and what was involved for council in terms of costs.

"Are we not straying into the health role?" she asked.

The bylaw was also considered to be "toothless".

Mayor Hamish McDouall said there was "no ability to give spot fines; there is no ability to enforce it".

He said in its time the bylaw had been leading-edge, but it was a "quite blunt"tool to reduce smoking.

Councillor Philippa Baker-Hogan said there was a need to "recognise the appalling high smoking statistics in Whanganui"and more research was needed. In policy terms, it sent a very clear message she said, and the bylaw should remain.

The committee voted to adopt the Smokefree Outdoor Areas Policy 2017 for public consultation and revoke the Smokefree Bylaw 2010.

The matter will now go the full council.