More Wellington Parks Go Smoke-Free

7 June 2012

All Wellington City sports parks and playgrounds are to become smoke-free areas as the Council moves to support the Government's goal of making New Zealand smoke-free by 2025.

The Council's Strategy and Policy Committee today unanimously agreed that all of the city's 43 sports parks, 104 playgrounds and seven skate parks should be smoke-free. An educational approach will be used to encourage smokers not to light up in these areas.  

Newtown Park, Rugby League Park and all of the city's artificial sportsfields are already no-smoking areas.

The Council's Social Portfolio Leader, Councillor Stephanie Cook, says the proposal is not about telling smokers not to smoke, but encouraging people not to smoke around children.

"The average age that people start smoking in New Zealand is 14 years and research shows that there is a link between the extent that children and young people see people smoking and the likelihood that they will become smokers. Making public areas that are regularly used by children smoke-free is one of the things that can help break that cycle," she says.

"Moves like this, which de-normalise smoking, are also helpful for people who want to give up smoking. Over time it has become increasingly unacceptable to smoke and that was what helped me to give up."

The Government has said it wants New Zealand to be smoke-free by 2025 and local authorities are expected to play a supporting role in achieving that goal. 

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the Council can assist with that by making more of the city's outdoor areas smoke-free and asking Wellingtonians to do their bit to help make sure they are.

"We don't want children, who are playing sport or being active in our playgrounds, inhaling second-hand smoke or seeing people smoking around them and thinking that it is normal or cool - and I don't think many smokers want to be setting that kind of example either," says Mayor Wade-Brown. "This is about setting a good example and supporting smoke-free future generations."

Smoking is the single greatest preventable cause of death in New Zealand and public health experts - including Regional Public Health and the Cancer Society - recommend an educational approach to reducing smoking in outdoor areas.

Both organisations have offered to assist the Council, and to keep the cost of implementing the change down, the Council will also work with sports clubs, schools, residents associations and other organisations to help get the message out.

Cr Cook says the change is something that she hopes most Wellingtonians will welcome and comply with because they want the city's young people to have a greater chance of a healthy future.