Call to ban smoking from shopping spots
Researchers are calling for councils to ban smoking in shopping areas after finding air near smokers on footpaths had 70 per cent more dangerous pollutants.
Otago University Wellington public health researchers tested the air quality near smokers at a Lower Hutt shopping centre over five weeks and found the rates of pollution to be higher when smokers are puffing.
They used a sensitive air monitor as they passed 284 people smoking on the footpath and detected higher rates of pollutants.
There was an average 70 per cent more dangerous fine particles in the air when standing at an average distance of 2.6 metres from the smoker.
When standing next to a smoker at a bus stop, the mean fine particle pollution level was 16 times the background level with a peak of 26 times the background level.
Study co-author Associate Professor Nick Wilson said that city councils should do more to help protect the health of pedestrians, and especially those in outdoor pavement seating, by implementing smokefree policies for shopping areas.
"They should be particularly concerned about protecting bar and restaurant workers who frequently have to breathe in second hand smoke when servicing outdoor tables with smokers.''
Other likely benefits of smoke free streets would be decreased street cleaning costs from less cigarette butt litter, a better public image for a city, the reduction of second hand smoke drifting into shops and offices, and reducing the nuisance impact for others walking on footpaths.
Researcher Dr George Thomson said the problem of smoking on city streets was being addressed internationally with a growing number of cities successfully adopting smoke free policies for at least some outdoor shopping areas.
These cities include Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart and many in California and Japan.
"Much of the impetus for these policies is to denormalise smoking further, and to decrease the example of smoking to children,'' Dr Thomson said.
"Reducing visible smoking also makes it easier for smokers to quit and to stay quit.''
Wellington City Council banned smoking at playgrounds and sports fields last month. It was the last council in the region to make the move.
However, an attempt to investigate further smoke free areas, including the Golden Mile and al fresco dining, was voted down.
The researchers found the results of this study were consistent with similar research along streets in downtown Wellington, even though there were less pedestrians and smokers in Lower Hutt.
The study was published in the international journal Health and Place and funded by the Wellington branch of the Cancer Society.
The Dominion Post