Smokefree at playgrounds

CLEARING THE AIR: Cancer Society Auckland chief executive John Loof, left, with Puketapapa local board member Michael Wood at one of the 25 playgrounds in the Puketapapa region that will become smokefree areas.
CLEARING THE AIR: Cancer Society Auckland chief executive John Loof, left, with Puketapapa local board member Michael Wood at one of the 25 playgrounds in the Puketapapa region that will become smokefree areas.

Playgrounds in Mt Roskill are about to become smokefree zones – a first for parks in central Auckland.

The Puketapapa Local Board has made all 25 playgrounds in its area smokefree, with a view to include parks and sportsfields in the future.

The board is the first in the region to implement the policy.

Member Michael Wood says the plan is to take a public education approach, rather than create a bylaw.

He says signs will be erected in and around the playground letting people know not to smoke.

Users will also be able to point out the signs if they see somebody smoking.

"The education approach is much simpler and there are fewer costs going into it, so we will be able to move on it quite quickly," Mr Wood says.

"It's not based on high levels of enforcement.

"The approach at Mt Smart Stadium has seen high levels of voluntary compliance."

Making playgrounds smokefree is about stopping children from starting to smoke, Cancer Society Auckland chief executive John Loof says.

Around 1400 children take up the habit in Auckland each year.

"Starting to smoke is not a responsible adult choice you make when you turn 18, as many tobacco companies would like us to believe," he says.

"Kids are told in lots of subtle and not-so-subtle ways to try smoking."

Children who grow up in an environment where there is smoking are more likely to start.

A ban in playgrounds and other spaces will show children that being smokefree is the norm and will also help smokers with the quitting process, he says.

Playgrounds are public places and some may feel it is their right to smoke near them but it is generally accepted that it is inappropriate, Mr Loof says.

"You're not allowed to smoke in bars, restaurants or workplaces and I think we've realised it's not something to be encouraged.

"It's about balancing the rights of children to a healthy future and adults to smoke," he says.

Both Mr Wood and Mr Loof expect people will support the policy.

Manukau city implemented a smokefree policy in its parks and playgrounds in 2009. And this year all of Auckland's regional parks were made smokefree.

These policies have been successful, Mr Loof says.

The move is in response to a number of submissions received by the Puketapapa board during the preparation of its local board plan asking for more smokefree places.

"Playgrounds are a really good place to start, it's a step in the right direction," Mr Wood says.

Smokefree playgrounds are a first step towards the government's vision of making New Zealand smokefree by 2025, Mr Loof says.

Central Leader