A new study of the smokefree signs at 63 New Zealand playgrounds has found that less than half of the playgrounds (44 per cent) had any such signs. Even when present, many of the signs were small and poorly designed, with some being only postcard sized.
The University of Otago, Wellington researchers found at least 15 different sign styles across the 21 local government areas they studied. The sign content themes included air quality (for example, 'fresh air') and of smoking by adults being a harmful example for children ('we copy what we see').
One of the researchers, Associate Professor George Thomson, says that the signs featuring role modelling to children could help smokers quit, as well as helping protect children from smoking normalisation.
“The desire of smokers to provide a good example can be a powerful aid to quitting – especially for parents and grandparents who smoke. Reminders of the effect of role modelling can add to other aids to help smokers quit and to stay smokefree,” he says.
Another one of the public health researchers, Professor Nick Wilson, says that New Zealand badly needs national guidelines to ensure that smokefree signs in all playgrounds and parks are instantly recognisable, visible from a distance, and have effective designs that are informed by research.
“It would be best if the government provided free well-designed smokefree signs to local governments throughout the country, just as they currently do for school and pre-school grounds,” he says.
“The smokefree signs at playgrounds should also be part of a wider government strategy to ensure that 'smokefree norms' are effectively communicated.
“As New Zealand moves towards the Government's Smokefree 2025 goal, we need to make much greater progress on smokefree public places – and childrens' playgrounds are a critical area to get right,” Professor Wilson says.
The study also compared the smokefree signs at playgrounds to those related to dogs, and found that dog control signs were typically less wordy and had clearer images.
Published in the international peer-reviewed journal Tobacco Induced Diseases, the article is freely accessible.
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