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There may be change in the air for Clutha, depending on the outcome of a new youth council-led smoke-free survey.
Clutha District Council community development adviser Jean Proctor is collating survey results at present, which youth council members will present to the full council at its first meeting of 2021, on February 18.
She said the survey was initiated by the youth council in late October, and had received an unusually strong response.
"The youth council helped formulate the council’s last smoke-free policy back in 2011, so it was time to revisit that in light of changing attitudes, and new phenomena like vaping. We’ve received more than 300 responses from schools and the wider community, including a significant number from current smokers and vapers."
Blue Mountain College pupil and Tapanui youth councillor Luke Thomson said an initial assessment of responses suggested people were in favour of including vaping in smoke-free policy, and extending the range of public areas where smoke-free rules should apply.
"Vaping wasn’t even a thing back in 2011 but is now quite prevalent, particularly among young people. With Jean’s help we’ll continue to gauge public opinion, then present those findings to council for their final decision."
Mrs Proctor said the results suggested the council might look at areas outside cafes and taverns, and at other public places and events, for inclusion within the new smoke-free policy.
"It’s really a question of ‘how far do you go?’ It was interesting to note extending smoke-free to all public places received strong support from the smokers in our survey, for example."
An informal poll of caregivers at the Balclutha Bridge playground on Monday yielded a 50:50 split regarding an extension of smoke-free policy.
Kaitangata resident Janice Ellis, who does not smoke, said there was already enough regulation.
"I don’t think the youth council should be interfering in public business.
"There’s already enough rules telling people what they can and can’t do, but at some point you have to rely on people’s common sense to do the right thing, rather than looking over their shoulder constantly."
However, Mrs Proctor said the youth council was simply "leading the way" in reviewing a policy that, by 2025, would need to align with a central government goal of making New Zealand smoke free.
"This is about the youth council putting their hands up and leading the way locally. It’s a subject we all need to be thinking about."
Proposed policy changes will undergo public consultation during the council’s long-term planning later this year.