DCC commits to smoke-free policy

Chris Staynes.
Chris Staynes.
The Dunedin City Council has adopted a policy formally stating its position on smoking - that Dunedin become a smoke-free city - but has asked for further information on how such a policy might be implemented.

The request for more information was tempered with a warning from Crs Richard Thomson and Chris Staynes that the policy should be the start of long-term incremental changes, because trying to implement health promotion measures too fast usually backfired.

Cr Staynes said he wanted to find out what it might cost to implement some of the measures proposed, as he agreed with comments made by health promoters in a public forum before yesterday's meeting of the council's community development committee that the policy might be toothless if it had to rely on changes being made within existing budgets.

The policy sets out the council's commitment to smoke-free goals and outlines some measures it could consider taking, such as 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 enforce the measures, just use them to promote a message it supported.

Health promoters said they were largely happy with the council's policy, but were concerned it did not having any funding attached and directed the council to ''consider'' measures rather than definitely put them in place.

Penelope Scott, from the Cancer Society, said that could lead to the policy being interpreted as a licence to do nothing.

Smoke-free public places were no longer a whacky idea, they were mainstream and supported by most people, she said.

But council staff said that gave them the ability to decide on what and when to act based on council priorities.

Staff are to report to councillors with an implementation plan in time for annual plan discussion in May.


The limits to freedom

The freedom of an individual to choose to smoke is not absolute. When that choice causes harm to others, impinges on the freedoms of others, or causes a burden to the rest of society then it stands to be regulated or banned. The most prestigious medical journal in the world, The Lancet, just published an article (last week) showing dramatic declines in pre-term births and asthma-related hospitalisations of children in places where public smoking bans come into effect. The effect is immediate: a 10% decline in both pre-term births and asthma hospitalisations within one year of a public smoking ban.

Down with free choice

The wowsers are really trying to take over the world. No more personal freedom. No more individual choice. We are right and you are wrong. If you dont fit get out - that's what an inclusive society does. We all know banning things works like a charm. Ban hot air and all the wowsers would have to leave town instead.

On the right track

Crs Staynes and Thomson are on the right track by suggesting incremental change concerning making Dunedin a smoke free city. The last thing we want is some kind of confrontational, fag police unit, stamping out peoples' fags.

By increasing the tax on smokes and restricting public places for smoking, the problem gets sorted to a more manageable level.

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