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Volunteers covered by smoke-free legislation

Volunteers covered by smoke-free legislation

Volunteers can breathe easy with the new smoke-free environments legislation.

The Ministry of Health's chief adviser of Public Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield says "Several queries have prompted this reminder to organisers and co-ordinators who use volunteers that their charges are entitled to the same protection from second-hand smoke as employees."

Like many aspects of the law, it is hard to generalise and say one group or one type of venue is not covered. Dr Bloomfield says "Each set of circumstances will be different, so we cannot make blanket statements like marae are exempt, or housie halls are exempt. Exactly which people and which venues are not covered by the law will depend on their individual circumstances."

Some venues have been deemed 'private' cultural places where the general public do not have access, so they do not necessarily fall into the definition of a workplace. Places such as marae, churches, and community centres fall into this category. "However, this doesn't mean they are automatically exempt. Smoke-free provisions will apply if there is an employee, who may be a cleaner or a minister, at the venue or if volunteers help with the core business which may be housie evenings in a community hall."

Legislation aside, it may be that building owners choose to make their premises smoke-free.

Private dwellings are not covered by the new law. "There have been some people who believe that because they work from home their home must be smoke-free according to the law. The legislation clearly states that private dwellings occupied by the employer are not covered by the law, although we obviously encourage people not to expose others to tobacco smoke in their homes," Dr Bloomfield says.

>From the start of 2004, all early childhood centres and school premises have had to be smoke-free. That means no smoking once you're in the school gate, regardless of the time of day or night or the occasion.

Dr Bloomfield says "We believe that most buildings where the public have access will be covered in this legislation, including the less obvious workplaces such as marae, housie halls, churches and community centres. The primary intention of the law is to protect employees and the public from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, and we believe that the law does that in a wide range of environments."

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