Smoke fading from Square
Smokers are being encouraged to drift away from the centre of Palmerston North, with about half of the inner city cafes, retailers and businesses joining the Smokefree Palmy project.
The city council developed the smokefree outdoor areas policy with Tobacco Free Central one year ago.
Group spokeswoman Julie Beckett said the aim was to help residents and visitors improve their health by encouraging people not to smoke in public places.
The council opted for a policy rather than a bylaw, using encouragement rather than penalties to dissuade people from lighting up.
The campaign has involved visits to businesses to convince them to be part of the project.
Beckett said the 50 per cent take-up was a good start.
She said discouraging smoking in the heart of the city was a natural progression after banning smoking in workplaces, in bars and cafes, school and hospital grounds.
The policy supports the central government goal of making New Zealand smokefree by 2025.
Success would mean less than 5 per cent of people still smoked.
Beckett said an estimated 5000 New Zealanders died unnecessarily from smoking-related conditions each year - more than 10 times the annual road toll.
Council policy analyst Julie Macdonald said since Smokefree Palmy was launched, green smokefree signs in English and te reo Maori had been installed around the smokefree areas.
There were signs outside council-owned facilities and on every bus shelter. As well, the council was encouraging the removal of butt bins from smokefree streets.
A Let's Make Palmy Smokefree Facebook page, which has more than 800 likes, has been set up to showcase businesses and other organisations supporting the policy.
Page manager Daniel O'Regan said only half of the businesses supporting the policy were prepared to declare their support in public.
"We had a great start and we'll keep going, however, we're under no illusion that this will take time and perseverance."
Mayor Jono Naylor said it was great to see businesses recognising the value in supporting Smokefree Palmy. "By getting on board they're giving customers a helping hand to improve their health but they're also supporting the vast majority of customers who want to shop and relax in town without cigarette smoke in their face."