Wellington aims for world first as ‘smokefree capital’

14 April 2016

Wellington City Council’s Community, Sport and Recreation Committee have agreed to make the Capital City smokefree by reducing the prevalence of smoking to less than 5 percent by 2025.

The committee, chaired by Councillor Paul Eagle, has agreed to extend smokefree areas across the city from World Smokefree Day on 31 May this year as part of a Smokefree Action Plan. 

Smokefree areas will include the Civic Square, Bus Stops, Botanical Gardens, Waitangi Park, Council housing, Council operated community centres, pools, recreation centres, building entrances, and designated council laneways. 

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown suggested Council footpath licences could encourage far more smokefree outdoor dining. The idea will be included for consultation as part of a planned review of the Footpath Management Policy this year.

Mayor Wade-Brown is an ex-smoker and says she knows how hard it is to kick the habit. 

“Already less than 10 per cent of Wellingtonians smoke – the lowest rate in New Zealand.” 

“We can become the first smokefree Capital in the world by helping 5000 of our fellow Wellingtonians to become smokefree over the next nine years,” she says. 

The City Council has been reviewing its smokefree policy and information from health researchers will be essential for developing the policy over coming years. In 2011, the Government set a goal for New Zealand to be smokefree by 2025, meaning a smoking rate of less than 5 percent across all populations. 

Cr Eagle supports the extension of the smokefree area and said the time had come to be bold with our aspirations.

“We need to take this seriously as the capital city and ensure we do everything we can to make Wellington smokefree by 2025.”

“It’s not just the smokers’ lives that are of concern; smoking has a huge impact on wider communities and especially that of Maori and Pacific communities, where smoking rates are still as high as 33 percent.”

“It’s great for the Council to work with health promoters and do our bit to end smoking in New Zealand”, he says. 

Observational surveys of smoking in Wellington show the vast majority of smokers are respecting smokefree areas and not smoking around children. The prevalence of smoking in some downtown areas has been observed at 13 percent or more, but drops below 3 percent when children are around. Little or no smoking was observed at sports grounds when kids sport was playing. Wellington’s playgrounds and sports parks went smokefree in 2012.

An opinion survey conducted last year by the Council indicated overwhelming public support for smokefree playgrounds and sports parks, and for extending Wellington’s smokefree areas. Top of the list for Wellingtonians was building entrances, bus stops, and the Botanical Gardens. The majority of smokers were also supportive.

Councillors also agreed to look at the feasibility of a bylaw against the littering of cigarette butts.