Central Palmerston North footpaths could soon go smokefree.
Volunteers are doing the rounds asking cafes and business owners what they think of the idea.
The informal city council survey follows a deputation from Public Health, the Cancer Society and Heart Foundation to the council last August, which convinced a majority of councillors that discouraging smoking around The Square was a goal worth investigating.
Council policy analyst Peter Ridge said a bylaw or ban was unlikely, but a policy that encouraged people to keep their butts off the pavements would be considered.
The idea of a bylaw would be imposing, and likely to spark a negative reaction from some, whereas education and encouragement could have a more positive result in the long term.
"We think even a lot of smokers are quite supportive of policies that encourage them to quit.
"We are not going to see smoking disappear overnight, but it is an opportunity for the council to take a stance."
The challenge would be coming up with something effective without the backing of a bylaw that could be enforced, he said.
"But first, we want to get some feedback, especially from the cafes and bars that have outside areas."
Mr Ridge said the banning of smoking indoors had encouraged the development of more al fresco dining areas.
"Some al fresco areas give the impression that they are there as smokers' areas, but non-smokers also like to be able to dine outdoors.
"We're just testing the temperature in the business community at the moment, specifically among those involved in hospitality."
Mr Ridge said the policy could possibly affect central-city office workers who went outside on to the footpath to have a smoke break, as well as people walking across The Square.
The council has also asked for a policy to cover all parks, playgrounds and sports grounds, Arena Manawatu, and events hosted by the council or held on council land.
Chrissy Karena, from the Manawatu Centre of the Cancer Society, said "the little bit of field work" done so far was not enough to indicate any clear body of opinion about the idea of a smokefree central city.
A draft policy is likely to be presented to the council's community wellbeing committee in April.
Public consultation would follow, in time for any costs involved to be considered for inclusion in the Annual Plan for 2013-14.
- Manawatu Standard
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