Cigarettes could be stubbed out of Hamilton playgrounds and parks under a new smoke-free policy to be considered by the council in August. A Waikato coalition group working against smoking, known as Chances, and the Waikato Bay of Plenty Cancer Society are also urging the city council to enforce a non-smoking rule across parks, playgrounds and bus shelters after unprecedented public support.
The calls coincide with a proposal from Auckland health heads to the Auckland Council to comply with the Cancer Society’s request to restrict cigarette or tobacco smoking in its open spaces, parks, sports fields and playgrounds, as well as in malls and pedestrian areas.
A survey of 111 residents at Hamilton Lake and Innes Common playgrounds, the city bus station and Waikato University in mid-2011 found 94% wanted children’s playgrounds to be smoke-free.
There was also large support for rolling a smoke-free policy out across the bus shelters and the city’s bus terminal.
Waikato Bay of Plenty Cancer Society health promotion manager Melanie Desmarais said it wanted those public areas to be kept smoke-free to reduce the exposure of teenagers to smoking.
Of the 19,000 new smokers every year, 90% were children and young people.
She hoped the Hamilton City Council would act as a role model for other Waikato councils as the country made small steps towards becoming smoke-free by 2025.
The Waikato Stadium and the Hamilton Zoo are already smoke-free and more than 30 New Zealand councils have had smoke-free policies for several years.
Hamilton City Council strategy and policy committee chair Maria Westphal said the committee would consider a policy in August.
“This is a matter which has significant public interest and we’ll certainly be ensuring we get the views of individuals and groups as part of any process.”
The Waikato DHB is also waiting for a response to a request last June to make two streets outside the hospital smoke-free because of the large number of people who congregated there.
Waikato DHB spokeswoman Mary Anne Gill said it was a bad look having so many people smoking along the street just outside the busy hospital.
“Ideally, we would love all of the streets outside the hospital to be smoke-free.”
Rotorua’s playgrounds have been smoke-free since 2008 and the ban is slowly being rolled out to other council facilities, grounds and playgrounds.
Rotorua District Council parks and recreation manager Garry Page said the eventual quest was for all areas in the city to be smoke-free to teach youth that smoking was not socially acceptable.
“We are looking at changing the culture instead of having smoke-free grounds. We will change that around and [then] look at getting smoking zones.”
He said peer pressure from responsible users had worked as the best enforcement tool, rather than ticketing people who were breaking the rules.