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Government needs to show backbone on smoking law

Government needs to show backbone on smoking law

Green MP Sue Kedgley is angry the Government is considering exempting clubs from proposed new legislation that would totally ban smoking in bars, restaurants, offices and all other workplaces.

"It would be inequitable and unfair on bar, pub and restaurant owners if the Government backtracks and exempts clubs from the ban. It would undermine the entire case for a ban on smoking in workplaces if smokers can just saunter down the road to smoke at the nearest club," Ms Kedgley said.

"Bars will inevitably try to turn themselves into clubs. This is why it is essential we have an across-the-board, level playing field approach. The Government needs to be strong on this issue, and not bow to pressure from commercial lobby groups.

"What is the point of having a select committee deliberate for six months, hearing hundreds of public submissions and reaching consensus, if ministers are going to sabotage the legislation at the last minute, in a pork barrel attempt to garner votes from clubs and the Returned Services Association?"

Ms Kedgley said the ban, proposed in amendments to the Smoke-Free Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill, was essential for public health. "All it needs is goodwill and commitment on the part of bars, clubs and other employers. The legislation will save lives, and protect people from passive smoking, which we know is a killer. Second-hand smoke is a toxic waste that contains more than 50 chemicals, known to cause cancer.

"People complained when we first started phasing smoking out of workplaces, and introduced smoke-free areas in dining and drinking establishments, but now it's an accepted part of life," Ms Kedgley said.

"Society and the Government can't keep standing by and allowing the needless deaths of passive smokers, who have already decided not to inhale the more than 4000 toxins contained in direct cigarette smoke.

"An estimated 388 people die in New Zealand every year from passive smoking, and 145 of those deaths are linked to exposure in the workplace. Workers in the hospitality industry are most at risk." Ms Kedgley said she was confident that cleaning up the atmosphere in bars and other establishments would attract more, not less, customers.

Ms Kedgley is deputy-chair of the health select committee, which on Tuesday reported its amendments to the bill to the House.

ENDS

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