"It's great to see businesses recognise the value in supporting Smokefree Palmy," says Mayor Jono Naylor. "By getting on board they're giving customers a helping hand to improve their health but they're also supporting the vast majority of customers who want to shop and relax in town without cigarette smoke in their face."
Smokefree streets circle The Square, run up Broadway Avenue to Princess Street, and include Queen and King Streets, along with Cuba and George streets and Coleman Place. Parks, playgrounds, reserves, Council buildings, bus stops and Council funded events are also covered.
Palmerston North City Council developed the Smokefree Outdoor Areas policy in partnership with Tobacco Free Central last year.
Tobacco Free Central spokesperson Julie Beckett says Smokefree Palmy aims to help residents and visitors improve their health by encouraging people not to smoke in public places.
"We've worked with Council on this policy, door knocking the central city to gauge support. We're really happy that well over half of all businesses in the smokefree areas want to support it. That's a great start"."We're working progressively," she says. "First, smoking was discouraged in the workplace, then in bars and cafes, school and hospital grounds. Outdoor recreation areas, reserves and parks followed and now the focus is on the heart of the City."
The big picture behind the policy is to help achieve the central government goal of making New Zealand Smokefree by 2025. This means smoking prevalence across all populations will be less than five per cent. At the same time tobacco will be difficult to sell and supply. While Council has no powers to enforce the policy, it is happy to promote a voluntary option to encourage healthy living.
"It is estimated that around 5000 New Zealanders die unnecessarily from smoking-related conditions - that's over 10 times the annual road toll," says Julie Beckett of MidCentral District Health Board. "Tobacco is highly addictive and helping people stop smoking is one of the best ways of improving their health."
Policy analyst Julie Macdonald says since Smokefree Palmy was launched green Smokefree signs in English and Te Reo Māori have been installed around the City's Smokefree areas. Signs have also been installed outside Council-owned facilities and on every bus stop shelter in the City. As well, Council is encouraging the removal of butt bins from smokefree streets.
The policy is supported by the Let's Make Palmy Smokefree Facebook page, which has over 800 likes. The page is co-managed by Palmerston North City Council and Tobacco Free Central. It showcases businesses and other organisations that have supported the policy.
Page manager Daniel O'Regan says it's been an interesting experience; while half of all businesses support the policy, only half again were ready to stand up and be counted by declaring their support in public. "We had a great start and we'll keep going, however we're under no illusion that this will take time and perseverance."