Wellington smoking ban extends to housing

A smoker outside the Beehive (Getty)
A smoker outside the Beehive (Getty)

Anti-smoking advocates are stubbing out concerns Wellington's war on tobacco is going too far, by banning smoking in council housing.

From May 31 -- World Smoke-free Day -- it will be banned to light one up in Civic Square, Waitangi Park, botanical gardens, bus stops, council housing, council-operated community centres, pools, recreation centres, building entrances and council-owned laneways.

The goal is to make Wellington the world's first smoke-free capital, defined as less than 5 percent of the population.

"Already less than 10 per cent of Wellingtonians smoke -- the lowest rate in New Zealand," says Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, an ex-smoker herself.

To achieve the goal, only 5000 more Wellingtonians need to quit.

"What we're hoping for is something where we're getting rid of tobacco in New Zealand and thinking about we're continuing to protect people from second-hand smoke, and that's a big thing," says Stephanie Erick, director of anti-smoking lobby group ASH.

"Creating a smoke-free city is excellent for the community… but it's also good for businesses. It's not just about ostracising smokers. It's about supporting them to achieve something they want to do."

But the ban doesn't just affect people out and about in public -- it also extends to council-owned housing. The council owns about 2200 units across the city.

Ms Erick says the ban wouldn't be happening without the tenants' approval.

"They would have been part of these discussions. I don't think they've been left out in the cold… I'm sure they would have been up in arms a little bit more stronger if this was something [they opposed]."

The council won't be actively trying to police the ban. Observational surveys have shown the prevalence of smoking drops by about 75 percent when children are around, and "little or no" smoking at children's sports events.

"People are given the messages and they understand," says Ms Erick.

Wellington City Council is also considering a bylaw against littering cigarette butts.

The Government has set a goal of having the entire country smoke-free by 2025, and in recent years has progressively increased taxes on cigarettes.