Cigarette butts still found in playgrounds

Our playgrounds are smoke-free - but not everyone is getting the message.

The Dunedin City Council adopted a voluntary smoke-free playgrounds policy 18 months ago but some smokers continue to defy the ban.

During a brief visit to Marlow Park in St Kilda this week, members of Smokefree Otago found 18 discarded cigarette butts and an empty cigarette packet lying among the play equipment.

''I'm surprised and disappointed to find these here,'' Smokefree Otago chairwoman Penelope Scott said.

Mrs Scott said part of the problem might be a lack of awareness.

Children were influenced by what they saw adults doing, highlighting the importance of having smoke-free spaces for children, she said.

''Our primary aim should be to protect children - we want smoke-free environments to be the norm,'' Mrs Scott said.

Southern Primary Health Organisation health promotion and projects co-ordinator Katie Jahnke said parents and whanau could make positive changes to the environment children grew up in, even if they smoked.

''By actively choosing not to smoke in front of children it makes a powerful statement that you believe smoking is undesirable,'' Ms Jahnke said.

The Government had a goal of New Zealand having less than 5% of the population smoking by 2025.

Smokefree Otago, which included representatives of a range of Dunedin health, education and community organisations, had done ''butt counts'' at several large playgrounds since the policy was introduced 18 months ago, with mixed results.

The number of cigarette butts at Marlow Park fluctuated from 22 in November, 2012, to 14 in February, 2013, to 29 in November, 2013.

Numbers were much higher at Mosgiel Memorial Gardens, with 403 butts counted in November, 2012, 297 in February, 2013, and 355 in November, 2013.

As part of the smoke-free playgrounds policy, the Dunedin City Council had committed to installing smoke-free signs around the city's playgrounds - A3 size signs for ''destination'' playgrounds and smaller signs for community playgrounds.

Council corporate policy team leader Maria Ioannou said the larger signs would be placed during the next year, as part of maintenance work at playgrounds.

Last month, the council committed to a smoke-free policy for Dunedin, opting to implement a range of measures ''as existing budgets allow''.

These include installing smoke-free signs on council-owned buildings and sportsgrounds, as well as requiring tenants in DCC housing to not smoke inside.

Next Wednesday, ahead of World Smokefree Day (May 31), Otago Polytechnic and the University of Otago will be presented with Smokefree Awards for creating smoke-free campuses.


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