Public support further smoking bans - study

The majority of New Zealanders support additional smoking bans but the Government is reluctant to regulate for fear of being seen as a "nanny state", new research shows.

The study, by Otago University Wellington's Department of Public Health, found strong support for changes to smokefree areas.

Health researcher George Thomson said the study found politicians and health officials preferred education to protect children, rather than regulation.

Dr Thomson, who analysed interviews with 62 politicians and senior officials, said a reluctance to regulate appeared to stem from a fear of the politics involved and ignorance about the level of support for changes to smokefree policies.

"While the majority of those interviewed perceived the issue of smokefree public areas as highly controversial, the reality is that recent research shows, for instance, that more than 65 percent of smokers, and 75 percent of the New Zealand public, think smoking should not be allowed at public playgrounds," he said.

"The study indicates that politics generally came before evidence in deciding policy and that concern for smokers often came before concern for children."

In 2008, another study found 96 percent of the smoking population supported a ban on smoking in cars carrying pre-school children.

"This shows that policymakers would benefit from a greater appreciation of how overwhelmingly acceptable New Zealanders now find the idea of such smokefree law changes," Dr Thomson said.