Whangārei District Council plans to make all public spaces smokefree by the end of 2020​

By: Danica MacLean

Danica MacLean is a reporter for the Northern Advocate



A policy to make Whangārei smokefree by 2025 has been applauded by health advocates.

Whangārei District Council adopted a Smokefree policy at a council meeting on Thursday, aligning with the wider New Zealand goal.

Under the policy, the council plans to make alfresco dining, all public spaces owned by the council and beaches smokefree by the end of 2020.

Council-owned playgrounds, sports fields, neighbourhood reserves, bus shelters and council run events are already smokefree, as are a number of key council-owned sites including the Aquatic Centre, The Hub, the i-SITE, Claphams Clocks, the Quarry Gardens, Kiwi North and the library courtyard.

The policy is non-regulatory which means the council will achieve it's goal through the use of signs and educational material and working smokefree clauses into lease agreements and contracts for property and events.

Smoking of tobacco products, vaping and using heated tobacco products are all covered by the policy.Councillors were applauded by those in the public gallery when they adopted the policy.

Cancer Society Northland manager Jenni Moore was among those there.

"This decision is a significant step towards achieving smokefree 2025 and, we acknowledge the support of council and hope that other councils in Northland will follow suit," she said.

Sitting alongside her was Northland District Health Board smokefree advisor Bridget Rowse, who said it was encouraging to hear from Councillor Anna Murphy the feedback from the Youth Advisory Group about the policy.

"They strongly supported increased smokefree outdoor public spaces, especially the inclusion of vape-free and smokefree beaches from an environmental perspective - reducing butt litter and plastic pollution."

Hāpai te Hauora said the move, along with Auckland Council's move to make more than 800 restaurants, cafes, and bars with outdoor areas smokefree demonstrates whānau wellbeing being prioritised on many levels - reducing the risk of second hand smoke, denormalising smoking for rangatahi and ensuring the health and safety of hospitality kaimahi.

The Māori public health organisation said it is a great start but urged more consistent regulations to avoid confusion across regions.

Hāpai General Manager of Tobacco Control, Mihi Blair, believes that more consistent regulation from Ministry of Health could provide better guidance to councils in creating smokefree policy.

"We are more mobile than ever - particularly Māori. Better regulations could provide guidance for more consistent smokefree policies across regions, helping avoid confusion and maximising on the health gains".

Cr Greg Martin was pleased to see vaping included. "It's far more invasive than cigarettes for the rest of us."

Cr Vince Cocurullo was happy it was non-regulatory as if it was regulatory it would be "taking the free will away from people and I do not want to do that".

Cr Stu Bell said those affected by second hand smoke did not get a choice, while Cr Cherry Hermon said tobacco and addiction takes away free will.

Mayor Sheryl Mai said they had a duty of care to the people they serve in the district.

"People who live here can lead healthy lives in a clean environment."

Every year Northlanders spend an estimated $147 million on tobacco products.

While 19.1 per cent of Northlanders smoke - the highest rate in the country, which averages 15 per cent nationally - it's down from the 24 per cent who smoked in the mid-1990s.