Editorial: Smokefree policy a win-win

Whether or not you are for or against Palmerston North's proposed smoking bans, there is one thing that unites all parties in the debate: the policing of the policy. The proposal would see smoking in the city's central business district, as well as in council-owned parks, sports fields and buildings, "banned".

Council debated three options yesterday.

Option one would result in smoking being prohibited in all council-owned parks and playgrounds, including The Square and Victoria Esplanade, facilities such as Te Manawa and libraries, council-funded events and central-city footpaths. The second option would enable the creation of these clean-air zones at council parks and playgrounds, buildings and events. These zones would have signs that encouraged people not to smoke while within the area.

The third option is to retain the status quo, in which signs promote parks and playgrounds as being smokefree.

But let's get one thing straight: no matter what the outcome, it wouldn't make smoking in these spots illegal, and you wouldn't be breaking any laws by lighting up a cigarette in a council park, for example.

Instead, the council would essentially rely on social pressure to "police" the issue.

Confused as to how that would work? Aucklanders have been doing this for a while and it appears to be successful. Mt Smart Stadium, Eden Park and Auckland Zoo have approached the "no smoking" issue by creating social pressure through a range of signs and educational campaigns. Basically, if you put up a no-smoking sign and someone lights up, the council is relying on the smoker to feel so embarrassed at going against what the sign says, they'll do the right thing and stub it out. It is the most practical and easiest solution to the issue and the closest thing to a win-win. Non-smokers will be pleased with fewer smokers at popular public places and smokers can still, technically, have a cigarette at their wish so there is no civil liberty intrusion.

With fewer people choosing to take up smoking and more smokers giving up, this issue is bound to be stubbed out naturally as future generations come through. But in the meantime, the council should be applauded for following a trend that other councils are also debating.

ONE MORE THING

While it was great news to hear overall reported crime levels have dropped in Palmerston North, the figures provided need to be taken with a grain of salt. Some crimes, like burglary, actually rose so it is important that communities remain vigilant and look out for one another. The city remains one of the "most victimised" areas in the country in burglaries per capita and that's one title it would be fantastic for the city to lose.

Manawatu Standard