Smokers fear criminal taint

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 11/07/2012

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Southern smokers say they will be forced to behave like criminals and sneak into back alleys to enjoy a puff if a ban on smoking on footpaths is brought in.

Rana Weir, of Invercargill, said it would be pathetic and further punish smokers.

"A ban on smoking on footpaths and in shopping areas would make smoking cigarettes like smoking drugs," she said.

"Smokers would have to sneak around like criminals."

Public Health South had some compassion for smokers. Team leader Anne McSoriley said banning smoking on footpaths may be too harsh.

"There are still lots of people addicted to tobacco and they do a great job mostly of smoking outside," she said.

"Now is the time to support those who do still smoke to quit and when that number is low enough, then look at new laws."

Ms McSoriley said regulations to make outdoor dining venues smokefree were more realistic.

Researchers have called on councils to impose a blanket ban nationwide on smoking in city streets after a study revealed pedestrians were exposed to an increased number of harmful particles.

University of Otago Wellington public health researchers monitored the air quality in a Lower Hutt shopping centre where people were smoking on the footpaths. It was found the pollution was higher when smokers were puffing.

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 a smoker, the study found.

Study co-author Associate Professor Nick Wilson said 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.

Other likely benefits of smokefree streets would be decreased cleaning costs from less cigarette butt litter, a better public image for a city, and a reduction in the amount of second-hand smoke drifting into shops and offices, Prof Wilson said.

Invercargill tobacconist and non-smoker Paul McKinlay said the ban would be going too far.

"Unless cigarettes are made illegal, any laws to ban smoking from footpaths would not make sense," he said.

There was strong support for the ban from non-smokers in Invercargill yesterday.

They commented that there was nothing worse than walking behind a smoker and inhaling their smoke and that it was a filthy habit.

They said smokers should inhale in their own space without putting other people at risk.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt did not return calls yesterday.

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