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Public support for smokefree shopping streets


Tuesday 8 February 2011 3:17pm

A study of attitudes to outdoor smoking on Wellington’s ‘Golden Mile’ of shopping streets has found that 56% of those interviewed believe this area should be completely smokefree.

The researchers from the University of Otago, Wellington also observed an average of seven smokers for every ten minutes of walking on those streets, (Courtenay Place, Manners Mall and Street, Willis Street and Lambton Quay).

“This means that non-smokers are coming into contact with second-hand smoke on a regular basis, and raises the question whether New Zealand should follow other jurisdictions in making busy shopping areas smokefree,” says public health researcher Associate Professor Nick Wilson.

“Retailers may also attract more shoppers if a smokefree policy improves their experience,” he said.

Many other public outdoor areas, such as schools and around hospitals, have been made smokefree in recent years by government agencies. About one third of local councils now have smokefree signs at playgrounds and parks.

The researchers also measured fine particulates (PM2.5) in the air with a portable air monitoring device. This particulate size can penetrate deep into the lungs. Levels of these particulates where smoking was observed were, on average, three times those found beside a busy road junction on Wellington’s ‘Golden Mile’.

The highest levels of particulates were detected where groups were smoking at tables outside bars and cafés. In one bar’s outdoor area, mean levels were seven times higher than those found beside the busy road junction, with a peak level 35 times higher.

The lead author of the study, Rhys Parry, points out the high particulate levels in outdoor areas of bars and cafés have implications for the health of non-smokers from second-hand smoke, and for the staff at these establishments.

This suggests the need for smokefree policies to be extended to protect the health of workers, and that of non-smoking customers wanting to sit outside at cafés and bars. Some countries and jurisdictions have already introduced such policies. These include Queensland and West Australia, some Canadian provinces, and some states in the USA as well as 177 American cities. In Tasmania, both Hobart and Launceston have adopted smokefree outdoor policies for the central business districts.

Associate Professor Wilson says the study gives more direction for policymakers and local authorities regarding the development of smokefree environments in heavily used shopping areas in New Zealand.

The research has just been published in the international journal, Nicotine & Tobacco Research and was funded by the Health Research Council.

For further information contact

Rhys Parry
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel 64 4 479 8443

Dr George Thomson
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel 64 4 918 6054

Associate Professor Nick Wilson
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington

A copy of the study can be supplied by email on request.

Website: University of Otago, Wellington

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