Local governments are not committed to helping New Zealand become smokefree by 2025 and need to pull up their socks and do more to achieve the goal, researchers say.
The lack of support for the central government goal can be seen in the 10-year strategic long-term plans that New Zealand councils are required to develop, the University of Otago team said.
In research just published, they studied the long-term plans of 13 Canterbury and West Coast councils and found none of them mentioned the smokefree 2025 goal.
Joint study author Louise Marsh then called council staff to discuss how they viewed the smokefree goal.
The staff indicated they were more preoccupied with pressing issues of improving infrastructure and maintaining financial prudence, Dr Marsh said.
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She said while most councils had adopted smokefree policies, few fully understood how important they were to improving public health.
Many councils also believed they lacked resources or extra money needed to enforce public smokefree laws.
Dr Marsh said central government should consider stepping in if councils didn't act, particularly in taking a key next step of banning smoking in outdoor dining areas and the main streets of towns and cities.
"Perhaps central Government should consider national legislation for smokefree outdoor areas?" she said.
Health groups could also step in to work with councils and help them overcome their apathy, Dr Marsh said.
Cancer Society Canterbury West Coast chief executive Elizabeth Chesterman says local government activities would work best as part of wider tobacco control efforts.
"Local authorities are a key partner for us and other health agencies in... achieving the goal of a smokefree Aotearoa by 2025," she said.