Smokers surveyed by Hamilton News say they would happily comply with the council's newly introduced smoking bans - if they knew where they could no longer smoke.
Smoking is now prohibited in Garden Place, Civic Square, Hamilton Transport Centre, Hamilton Gardens, within 10 metres of council playgrounds, council-owned or operated buildings, and around Waikato Hospital. The ban follows the adoption of a 'self-policing, educative' Smoke-Free Environment Policy by Hamilton City Council.
Hamilton News spoke to people smoking in Garden Place and at the Hamilton Transport Centre. None were aware of the new policy.
One smoker we spoke to, who declined to be named, said the ban was a "breach of smokers' freedom". His stance, however, was against the trend. Others said they were happy to refrain from smoking in areas where it was prohibited.
Bev Lennox, who was smoking as she walked through Garden Place last Monday, wasn't aware of the new policy but thought it was a good idea. She said she didn't smoke when she was in Brisbane, where smoking in public places is banned. "It works in Aussie," she said.
Hamilton City Council will work alongside local smokefree coalition CHANCES to introduce appropriate signage as well as educate the public about the policy. Signs will be erected at destination playgrounds, Hamilton Gardens, the transport centre, Garden Place, and Pembroke St in the next couple of weeks. The rest of the signage will be rolled out over the next two months.
CHANCES comprises Hamilton City Council, smoking cessation specialists Aukati Kai Paipa and K'aute Pacifika, the Heart Foundation, Waikato DHB and Cancer Society.
Waikato/Bay of Plenty Cancer Society health promotion manager Melanie Desmarais said the Cancer Society and CHANCES was hoping to "denormalise smoking our public areas, particularly where children and youth are".
"This is all about the kids and providing them with a future with less cancer. In New Zealand, the average age of smoking initiation is 14 for non-Maori and 11 for Maori. Many of these young smokers become addicted and find it hard to stop, resulting in half of all smokers dying from a smoking related disease."
Melanie said the policy was also about helping to achieve a national vision of a Smokefree New Zealand by 2025, where less than five per cent of the population smokes. "In order to achieve this we need to reduce the number of youth smoking and support more smokers to make more quit attempts."
CHANCES performed baseline surveys that included observational data concerning the levels of cigarette litter and smokers present. Melanie said the coalition would continue its promotions and education over the next six months and repeat the surveys to assess what impact the policies have had.