Kiwi diners are being exposed to large amounts of secondhand
smoke even when they choose to sit inside restaurants, a
Research published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal
found levels of secondhand smoke at inside tables close to
doors and those in smoking areas outside were almost the
In what's believed to be the first study in New Zealand of
its kind, researchers took measurements from eight
restaurants over six-and-a-half hours.
The results showed increased secondhand smoke levels at
indoor tables next to the smokers' area during times of "high
smoking patronage", like weekends and in summer when most
restaurants had all the doors and windows open.
Secondhand smoke levels in areas furthest from doors and
windows were much lower.
Nick Wilson, an associate professor at Otago University's
Wellington-based department of public health, said secondhand
smoke exposure was measured according to the number of "fine
particles" of smoke found in the air at restaurants.
These were "the most hazardous smoke particles and most
likely to cause cancer and heart disease," he said. "They
could not be coughed up like larger smoke particles and went
deep into the lung."
Other findings highlighted the importance of restaurant
design, with higher levels of indoor secondhand smoke found
at eateries with enclosed smoking areas.
Action on Smoking and Health director Stephanie Erick said
the research showed a total smoking ban at restaurants and
pubs would benefit workers and patrons. "This is a health and
But Hospitality New Zealand president Adam Cunningham said
restaurant and bar owners needed clear guidelines about how
to make outdoor smoking areas safe.
"The best outcome for society is not to ban smoking in
outdoor areas. It's to help people who have outdoor areas to
understand what's required of them to keep everybody safe."
Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said the research
proved a smoking ban at restaurants and bars was needed.
"I'm not surprised at the findings, having experienced
smokefree areas and knowing that smoking in close proximity,
still the smoke gets in.
"This is about protecting workers as well as patrons," she
Prohibiting smoking at restaurants would benefit everyone and
help make NZ smokefree by 2025.
"Tobacco is a significant health hazard," Mrs Turia said. "It
costs the taxpayer an exorbitant amount of resource. I accept
that smoking is an addiction [and] I feel for those who are
smoking and understand the difficulties in giving up."
Representatives from Philip Morris, British American Tobacco
and Imperial Tobacco said they would review the findings, and
advocated a balanced approach to smoking restrictions that
would enable smokers and non-smokers to enjoy public areas.
The study, led by Frederieke van der Deen from Otago
University's Wellington campus, involved researchers from New
Zealand and Britain.