City offered mild option on smoking ban

A plan to ban smoking in Hamilton's public spaces looks likely to be stubbed out, in a move that has seen one city councillor accuse staff of being "wimps".

A ban in the city's parks and playgrounds has strong public support, but a report due before the council next week warns of the unknown cost of enforcing a bylaw and the risk of legal challenges.

Instead, managers will push for a softer approach and rely on signs and voluntary compliance to persuade smokers to stub out near others.

City council staff have outlined four options - a policy, a specific bylaw, adding smokefree provisions to current bylaws or doing nothing.

Staff will recommend the council adopt a smoke-free policy for its facilities, city playgrounds, Garden Place and Civic Square and the hospital area.

But the move has infuriated councillor Dave Macpherson, who described concerns about enforcement costs as a red herring and urged the council to push on with the ban.

He said people who talked about "smoking police" were off the mark, and a bylaw would allow the council the muscle to enforce a ban in problem areas.

"A policy is for wimps, it's a waste of time. If you stop there, you're saying ‘please be nice, please don't smoke', instead of giving them an instruction.

"We've got plenty of bylaws that are difficult to enforce, I don't buy that at all. That didn't stop us having those, and they're a stronger educational tool than policy.

"We've got them for window-washers and skateboarders, and they can be used to target enforcement when necessary."

The Cancer Society spokeswoman said the organisation wanted certain public areas in Hamilton to be made smokefree, with the intention of "de-normalising" smoking, especially among young people.

"The Cancer Society would like to see Hamilton city parks, children's play areas, council-owned sports grounds and swimming pools, bus stations and bus shelters, high pedestrian areas such as Garden Place and Victoria Street, outdoor dining areas and all council run events smokefree," she said.

Garden Place business owners the Waikato Times spoke to were divided over the issue but all doubted a policy relying on signs would work.

Velo Espresso owner Matt Keen was keen for smoking to be stubbed out.

"I'd love to see it go smokefree out there. My one concern, though, is that there are offices around here and it's the only space they have to smoke.

"It might help with moving on some of the groups that hang around Garden Place, like the kids - that's all they seem to actually do."

Waikato Times