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Councillors' vote could create first smokefree capital

Councillors' vote could create first smokefree capital

ASH Director, Stephanie Erick, offers emphatic congratulations to Wellington Councillors for voting to extend smokefree areas in public spaces as of May 31, which is World Smokefree Day.

Erick appeared on Paul Henry’s show this morning to comment on the councillors’ vote, which could contribute to Wellington becoming the first smokefree capital in the world. She stated that it was an important step in extending protection from second-hand smoke in public places.

The policy will apply to areas including: Civic Square, Waitangi Park, the botanical gardens, bus stops, council housing, and council-operated community centres. All spaces which, Erick says, children and families frequent.

Removing smoking from these spaces is important to reduce the normalisation of smoking, which has been linked to increased likelihood of starting smoking. Exposure to smokers can also make it more difficult for those who want to quit succeeding in their attempt.

Current exclusions from the new policy are the CBD and waterfront areas; however a review in six months’ time will provide an opportunity for the policy to be extended to include those areas.

Erick praised Wellington leaders for reflecting the strong community support for the policy—a poll from October 2015 showed 84% support for increasing smokefree areas. Organisations including the Cancer Society, Regional Public Health, The Smokefree Coalition, and ASPIRE2025 Researcher, George Thomson, also deserve recognition for their input into this successful campaign.

This decision shows that local government recognises the Smokefree2025 goal, which aims to reduce smoking prevalence to less than 5%. “It is our hope that the rest of the country can follow Wellington’s lead in expanding smokefree policies and taking steps to make the Smokefree2025 goal a reality,” Erick said. She also added that it was vital for Central Government legislation, such as plain packs, to work with, and strengthen, local body solutions.

Similar outdoor smokefree dining policies in parts of Australia have contributed to boosted hospitality patronage. Here in New Zealand, surveys have shown a similar trend with a net gain in patrons when outdoor smoking areas are implemented.

Erick emphasised that the policy wasn’t about ostracising smokers, and that implementation would have to go hand in hand with strong stop smoking support services. “We know that 80% of smokers want to quit, and it’s important that there’s good support around for them.”

ASH is the leading organisation campaigning for effective action to achieve a Smokefree Aotearoa New Zealand by 2025.

ENDS

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