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Ventilation systems not the way to go

Ventilation systems not the way to go

Ventilation systems do not protect people from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, because they simply recirculate smoky air, Rotorua MP and sponsor of the Smokefree Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill Steve Chadwick says.

Ms Chadwick, responding to a proposal by United Future to replace the Bill’s smokefree provisions with a ‘clean air standard’, said the Health Select Committee exhaustively investigated the option of introducing ventilation or air filtration systems, but the evidence showed that while ventilation systems removed tobacco odours, harmful chemicals remained.

“Ventilation systems only filter out part of the contaminants found in second-hand smoke, so these systems simply recirculate contaminated air back into the workplace, so workers and non-smoking patrons continue to be exposed. It would need a tornado-level ventilation system to remove all the toxic effects of second-hand smoke – impossible to achieve with current ventilation technology,” she said.

Effectiveness aside, ventilation systems are prohibitively expensive. “The set up costs alone start at $55,000 so not all businesses could afford to use ventilation, creating an unlevel playing field from the get-go. And using an air quality standard, as United Future proposes, would be difficult to create, enforce, and apply to a hazard that is difficult to measure, because the most harmful parts of tobacco smoke are the hardest to detect.”

Ms Chadwick said she agreed with United Future’s statement that ideology was irrelevant, “but so is misinformation that raises fears about smokefree policies harming hospitality businesses. As international studies have shown again and again, a total smokefree approach with a level playing field has no impact or a positive impact on patronage and revenues. Three-quarters of New Zealanders do not smoke, and they are as likely or more likely to visit hospitality venues that are totally smokefree.

“Ventilation is a red herring that ignores the fact that over 90 percent of New Zealanders, whether they smoke or not, agree that workers have a right to work in a smoke-free environment.

Ms Chadwick said jurisdictions such as Australian Capital Territory had found their ventilation provisions for ‘exempted’ venues were not working. Proprietors were not turning on the ventilation systems because of high power costs, and were not complying with the regulatory requirements.

ACT is now proposing to phase-out smoking in enclosed places, doing away with ventilation systems.

“For numerous reasons, ventilation systems and air quality standards just don’t work. A 100 percent indoor smoke-free rule is the most cost-effective, fair and streamlined approach,” Ms Chadwick said. “We must learn from ACT’s experience and move toward completely smokefree work environments for all.”

The Smokefree Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill is expected to have its second reading in Parliament today.

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