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Leading the Way for a Smokefree Tai Tokerau

8 August 2012

Leading the Way for a Smokefree Tai Tokerau

Northland Local Government Authorities, Northland District Health Board and Cancer Society Northland are leading the way for a smokefree Tai Tokerau.

In the past four years all three Northland Councils have voted in a Smokefree Policy for playgrounds, sports grounds and parks.

“This is all about the kids, being smokefree role models for them and showing them that smoking is not a ‘normal’ activity”, said Bridget Rowse, Smokefree Advisor Northland DHB. “Smokefree playgrounds, sports grounds and parks will reduce the chance of children starting to smoke”.

Kaipara District Council was first in 2008 with Smokefree playgrounds extending the policy to cover sports grounds and parks in 2012.

Whangarei District Council implemented a Smokefree policy September 2010 for Whangarei playgrounds and sports grounds with neighborhood parks going smokefree September 2011.

Far North District Council voted to implement a Smokefree policy this year for playgrounds, sports grounds and parks to go Smokefree September 2012.

“Smokefree playgrounds will help future generations of New Zealand children to be free from exposure to tobacco and will enjoy smokefree lives “says Jim Callaghan, Health Promoter Cancer Society Northland. “It is a step closer to achieving a Smokefree New Zealand by 2025”

There is a high level of public support (96.5 %)[1] for smokefree public places. 73% of New Zealanders with young children support the expansion of smokefree areas to outdoor areas children use.

All three Councils Smokefree policies are educative not punitive. Signage and publicity will encourage the public to refrain from smoking in playgrounds, sports grounds and parks. The focus is on public education.

“It’s not about punishing smokers or telling them they can’t smoke. It’s about where they smoke and the opportunity they have to be good role models,” says Bridget Rowse, Smokefree Advisor Northland DHB.

“We don’t want to make people feel bad about smoking, we want them to feel proud about NOT smoking.”

Northland DHB Smokefree and Cancer Society Northland are working with the Councils to help implement and evaluate their Smokefree policies.

To get help to stop smoking, talk to your local health provider, Aukati Kai Paipa quit coach or call Quitline on 0800 778 778.

For more information got to

[1]Smokes 2007, Smoking Outdoors in a Kids Environment: A Pilot Study: Evaluating The Upper Hutt City Council Smokefree Parks Policy, University of Otago, Wellington School of Medicine.

Key Messages

This is all about the kids, being smokefree role models for them and showing them that smoking is not a ‘normal’ activity. This will reduce the chance they will start to smoke.

There is good evidence that kids are more likely to smoke if they see lots of adults smoking and, therefore, think it is more normal than it is.

It’s not about punishing smokers or telling them they can’t smoke. It’s about where they smoke and the opportunity they have to be good role models.

There is a high level of public support for smokefree playgrounds.

Many places around New Zealand and the world have implemented successful smokefree public places policies.

This is not about enforcement and there will be no ‘smoking police’ patrolling public places. People can be relied upon to act responsibly when it comes to smoking in public.

Smoking has a number of negative environmental impacts, such as the littering of cigarette butts and packets.

Frequently Asked Questions

How will a smokefree outdoor public places policy work?

The policy is all about education and empowerment. Signage and publicity will encourage the public to maintain a clean, healthy environment in areas that are primarily used by young people for sporting and recreation activity. This signage and publicity will ask the public not to smoke in council-owned open areas such as playgrounds, sports fields and open space reserves. Activities run by the council will also be 100 percent smokefree.

The policy will be educative rather than punitive. It’s not about punishing smokers, but about providing smokefree role-modeling and protecting the young.

How will the policy be enforced?

Experience in localities with smokefree outdoor public places polices so far has been that the public are quick to comply. Smokers are generally very considerate, and will smoke outside smokefree areas.

However, if someone does light up in a smokefree area, other users of that space will be empowered by the policy to ask them to either put their cigarette out or move away from the smokefree area to smoke.

For this reason, policing and enforcement have not been necessary in any of the localities where smokefree outdoor public places have been introduced.

What about the rights of smokers?

A smokefree policy is not a statement about or judgment upon smokers and does not infringe upon smokers’ rights. This is not about the smoker; a smokefree policy shouldn’t tell people not to smoke, it’s about where they can smoke. We’re simply asking that they refrain from smoking in places where children are.

Non-smokers also have rights – including the right not to be exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke. Children and young people also have the right to be protected from negative role modeling. Being exposed to adults’ smoking makes it more likely children and young people will become smokers in the future.

Will banning smoking at sports fields reduce parental attendance and support for children’s sport?

People do not come to watch their children play sport because it provides them with a place to smoke! Smoking is an addiction that people take with them to an event. However, the majority of supporters will be non-smokers, or smokers already unwilling to smoke around children.

It is also important to remember that being smokefree may help to create new opportunities for children's sporting organisations. Parents usually prefer their children to play sport in a smokefree environment and being smokefree may help to attract more junior members and parents.

Australian research on sport and cultural organisations shows that revenue, spectator attendances and memberships remain the same once smokefree policies are introduced. (Frost, G., Morris, C. & Wakefield, M. (1996). SmokeFree areas in public places: Public opinions and results of Foundations SA policy evaluation. In: Quit, South Australian Smoking and Health Project Evaluation and Research Report No 4, 1992-1995. South Australia Smoking and Health Project: Adelaide)


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