Should public spaces be smoke-free?

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

A report by the Gisborne District Council reveals that the East Coast has the highest rate of smoking in NZ, with a total annual spend by smokers of $77.5mil.  Now the public are being asked if the CBD and other public areas should be smoke-free.

“I might do the odd one here and there, as I just did, but um, yep, enforce it however they can and too much if it works," says one local.

“I don't think it's going to really work to say 'hey you can't smoke in the park or down the beach'- people are still going to do it.”

The council's draft Smokefree Outdoor Area Policy (SFOA) designates parks, playgrounds, and ‘destination’ beaches (Midway, Waikanae, Kaiti, Wainui and Okitu) as smoke-free.

Council will consult with the community on whether or not to extend the policy to include the CBD and wharf area, suburban centres and rural town centres.

Gisborne mayor Meng Foon says, “That's the council's aim, as well as Tairāwhiti Health and iwi health groups- to bring this matter to the attention of all of the families here.  We want to improve the health of the people within our communities."

The report to the Community Development and Services Committee reveals that fifteen percent of adults are everyday smokers.  In the East Coast the figure is thirty percent and over forty percent of those are Māori, with $5,000 per smoker being spent each year on tobacco products.

The smoke-free moves are being welcomed by health advocates.

“Our smoke-free workforce are celebrating, absolutely.  However, this is only one step toward the bigger picture, and the big picture is smokefree Tairāwhiti 2025,” says Senior Health Promotion Advisor for Hauora Tairāwhiti, Aporina Chapman.

Chapman says there will be resistance at first.

“However, in time to come there will be positive change like we've seen with our Tamararo kapa haka, like we've seen at our waka ama events and like we've seen with our Māori sports events.  There will be an acceptance.”

The policy will require all council-run and sponsored events to be smoke-free.

Foon says, “As a governing body, we want to be an example for others."

Implementing the policy will require new signage, which is provided to council free of charge by the Health Promotion Agency. The signs will be provided in English and te reo to meet bilingual signage requirements.

Cafes, restaurants and bars are being invited to take part in the policy.

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