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Report Shows 2003 Smokefree Law A Major Success

Saturday December 9, 2006

Report Shows 2003 Smokefree Law A Major Success

A new report released today by Associate Minister of Health Damien O’Connor, on the second anniversary of the full implementation of the 2003 Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act, confirms the smokefree law has been a great success.

According to University of Otago researchers, the Act has largely achieved its objective of reducing exposure to secondhand smoke in indoor workplaces, including in hospitality industry venues such as bars, casinos, clubs and restaurants.

‘After the Smoke Has Cleared’ was commissioned by the Ministry of Health and carried out by a team at the University of Otago in collaboration with the University of Auckland and the Health Sponsorship Council.

The report evaluates the impact of the provisions of the 2003 Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act which introduced extensions to the existing restrictions on smoking in indoor workplaces of the 1990 Smoke-free Environments Act, by making nearly all indoor workplaces smokefree, including non-office and hospitality industry workplaces. The new provisions came into force on 10 December 2004.

Public health researcher and lead author, Dr Richard Edwards from Otago’s Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, says the 2003 law change eliminating indoor smoking has been fully justified by the positive results so far.

“We analysed the impact of the 2003 Smoke-free legislation from a wide variety of perspectives. The findings are generally very positive. The reduction in exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace is particularly encouraging,” says Dr Edwards.

“There’s still more work to be done, but the results of our evaluation fully support the implementation of smokefree laws as a key component in the strategy to reduce the huge burden of ill-health and premature death caused by tobacco smoking in New Zealand.”

Dr Edwards says the positive New Zealand experience in eliminating indoor smoking mirrors that of Ireland, Norway, Scotland, New York and California which have introduced similar legislation resulting in a significant reduction of smoking indoors, without negative economic effects.

Some of the key findings of this evaluation report are:

• Strong and growing support for smokefree legislation in New Zealand. For example, by 2006, over 90% of the general population agreed that non-smokers have the right to live and work in a smokefree environment. There was also very strong support for banning smoking in bars and restaurants (82% and 90% respectively).

• Observed compliance with smokefree legislation in pubs and bars in three separate studies was close to 100%. The number of complaints per month about smoking in workplaces fell steadily following implementation of the law, and by April 2006 was down to around 10-15 per month.

• Self-reported exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace fell from around 20% of the workforce before implementation, to 8% in 2006. Similar reductions in exposure occurred for both Māori and non-Māori workers.

• Exposure to secondhand smoke in pubs and bars has been reduced by 90%, and air quality inside pubs, as measured by fine particulate levels is now very good, and similar to air quality outside.

• There is evidence of reduced exposure to secondhand smoke in homes between 2003-6, particularly in Māori households, suggesting that making indoor workplaces smoke-free, coupled with a smokefree homes media campaign, has helped to reduce smoking around non-smokers in homes.

• An increase in calls to the Quitline in the six months after the new law was implemented, suggests that the law has encouraged smokers to quit. There was also evidence of a reduction in social smoking in settings such as bars and restaurants.

• The economic impact of the smoke-free law on sales and employment in pubs and bars, and on tourism was minimal. These were areas where critics had suggested severe negative economic effects would occur.

Despite these considerable successes, Dr Edwards says that further work is required to ensure that those in the work force who are still exposed to secondhand smoke are identified and measures to ensure their protection are introduced. Also more work is needed to continue the increase in smoke-free homes, as this is still the main location where people are exposed to second-hand smoke, particularly young children.


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