Smoke-free policy push in Dunedin

Smoke-free Otago is seeking formal support from the council for a ''smoke-free Dunedin'' policy.

Dunedin city councillors will discuss on Monday whether to adopt the education-oriented policy. The council has to date shown its support for the goal of a smoke-free Dunedin in an ad hoc manner, by supporting signage in playgrounds, at bus shelters and at some of its events, but does not formally support it or have any official pledge to consider it across all its operations.

Council corporate policy team leader Maria Ioannou said this was the first time a formal policy had been brought to the council for consideration.

A draft policy, to be considered, states the council's support for a smoke-free city and outlines some measures it could voluntarily take aimed at changing social perceptions of smoking and supporting cessation.

These would be promoting the smoke-free message on signs or other communication in public places or at council-run or sponsored events; negotiating smoke-free environments with lessees and council-owned organisations and promoting the messages to council staff.

The council would not be able to enforce the measures, so as to avoid penalising smokers.

By stating the council's general support for the smoke-free goal and outlining parameters for that support, implementation decisions would be left to staff, with the policy allowing them to implement measures within existing budgets.

Public place signs, for example, could be updated with the message, where appropriate, when they were renewed. Smokefree Otago, a coalition of Public Health South, the Cancer Society, Heart Foundation, Asthma Society, Kai Tahi Ki Otago, Otago Polytechnic, Plunket, Tu Mai Ora and University of Otago, has asked the council to support a smoke-free city policy for several years.

In 2009, the council considered, and decided not to progress, a bylaw designating streets around Dunedin Hospital as smoke-free, because of enforcement issues and questions of suitability. Only one bylaw exists prohibiting smoking in a street in New Zealand, in Cable Car Lane, Wellington. Smoke-free outdoor environments have recently been implemented at the University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic, Mercy Hospital and Salvation Army.

The approach being proposed had been adopted by many other local authorities in New Zealand, Ms Ioannou said.

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