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Smokefree parks are working without smoke police

Clocktower.

Thursday 24 September 2009 2:56pm

Research published today from the University of Otago, Wellington has identified smokefree outdoor parks as a significant and growing new area for smokefree policies in New Zealand.

The research by Dr Brent Hyslop and Dr George Thomson, in the online New Zealand Medical Journal, finds this growth is largely driven by local authorities, District Health Boards and NGOs, without much central government contribution.

Since 2005, over a quarter of New Zealand's 73 local authorities have adopted smokefree outdoor policies, at least for playgrounds. The councils include Waitakere, Manukau and Christchurch, and over one million people now live in areas with some form of smokefree parks policies. These policies use signs and media publicity to inform smokers and the public, but they are not legally enforceable.

Smokefree outdoor policies are common in Australia and the USA, including some for beaches, outside buildings and in restaurant patios.

"It's likely that smokefree outdoor policies in New Zealand will spread to wider settings, " says Dr Thomson, "to shop entrances, the outside of cafes, and to some beaches and whole shopping streets."

Other research by the University of Otago, Wellington, and the Health Sponsorship Council, has found increasing public support for smokefree outdoor children's areas. This includes 66% support from smokers for smokefree playgrounds, and majority public support for all outdoor areas that children use to be smokefree.

However, some advocates of 'smokers rights' and libertarian ideas have been vehement in their opposition to even voluntary smokefree outdoor policies. For instance, local authority councillors have described such policies as a sign of 'a Big Brother mentality', 'draconian', and as marginalising smokers.

"This type of opposition places smokers rights over children's rights," says Dr Thomson.

This study was funded by the Health Research Council.

For further information contact

Dr George Thomson
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel 04 385 5541 # 6054 or 6040 (messages)
Email george.thomson@otago.ac.nz

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